Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 29

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
72
succeeded in compiling material covering the Hebrew statements
of some sixty-eight talmudic personalities, together with notes and
textual variants. A contract for the publication of the complete
work was drawn up with Dr. Shemaryahu Levin on behalf of
the Dvir publishing house. However, it was not until 1945 that
a sample first volume,
Rabbi Akiba Ben Yosef,
was published in
Jerusalem. It contains all the extant Hebrew statements by the
talmudic sage arranged according to subject.
During his many years of journalistic activity and editorship
Ben Yehuda introduced many new features into the Hebrew press,
including the first women’s section. He incorporated a feature
on world literature and encouraged translation from European
languages. Several of his own translations, including such works
as Victor Hugo’s
Les Miserables,
Jules Verne’s
Around the World
in Eighty Days,
and Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s
The Last Days of
Pompeii,
appeared later in book form. Noteworthy was his effort
to blend colloquial speech with biblical and later forms, an effort
in which he was far ahead of his time but which was not to be
fully developed until later.
Ben Yehuda’s fanatical devotion to Hebrew as an instrument
of national survival has become legendary. He never hesitated in
his loyalty to this principle even when it entailed much personal
hardship and self-sacrifice. Ittamar Ben-Avi, his son, related how
during his father’s first years in Jerusalem a large sum of money
arrived for him at the post office. Although he was earning only
a mere pittance for his work on the
Havazelet,
he refused to accept
the money because it entailed signing for it in Russian. Later,
during the days of the “Language War” in Palestine, when the
German-Jewish
Hilfsverein
planned to set up a technical high
school in Haifa, Ben Yehuda was among those who strongly op-
posed the teaching of the technical subjects in German, despite
the fact that he was endangering the financial support the
Hilfs-
verein
had agreed to extend to the publication of his dictionary.
In one of his early publicist articles printed in
Ha-Maggid
at
the beginning of the 80’s and prior even to his immigration to
Palestine, Ben Yehuda outlined his national credo in the follow-
ing words: “Three things are engraved in fiery letters on our
national flag: land, national language and national enlightenment
—whosoever denies any one of them, denies the entire basis of
nationalism.” It was given to Ben Yehuda to demonstrate the
insoluble link between the Hebrew language as a medium of daily
speech and instruction and the fostering of an enlightened people
in its own land. His exemplary devotion to his ideal and his unique
accomplishments have assured that his name will ever be associ-
ated with the Hebrew rebirth and the realization of the political
goals of Zionism.