How many Israeli-American children speak Hebrew

Israel and Germany

Arndt Kremer

To person

Dr. phil., born 1973; Lecturer for German as a foreign language and multilingualism at the University of Cologne and the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster; previously Postdoctoral Fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Center at the Hebrew University Jerusalem and DAAD Lecturer at the University of Malta. [email protected]

Singular events are not suitable for generalizations. But they are quite suitable for symbolism. And the German-Israeli relationship is highly symbolic after the horrors of the Shoah. The smallest rhetorical-symbolic errors, the slightest bumps can lead to communicative catastrophes. The extent to which diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany have developed, and indeed positively, since they were officially established in 1965, can be shown well by three events that are a few years apart - and concern the symbolically richest and most fragile level: language.

Even before Federal President Johannes Rau was the first non-Jewish German to speak in the Knesset on February 16, 2000, and even in his mother tongue, there had been violent protests. Likud MP Danny Navh noted that the time had not yet come to speak and hear German in the Knesset, and for former parliamentary speaker Dov Shilanski, a German politician's speech in German even meant "a desecration of the Holocaust -Andenkens. "[1] The special session itself, in which Rau asked the Israeli people for forgiveness for the crimes of National Socialism against the Jews, stayed away from a third of the delegates.

The speech by Federal President Horst Köhler, who was following Rau, on February 2, 2005 was also criticized in advance because Köhler wanted to speak German. Health Minister Dani Naveh announced his boycott of the celebration of 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hemi Doron expressed the sentiments of many other Shoah survivors when he wrote in the daily Ma'ariv: "I cannot bear to hear this language in the House of Representatives of the Jewish people." [2]

Angela Merkel's speech in the Knesset on March 18, 2008, which, like Köhler, began with a greeting in Hebrew and continued in German, was hardly accompanied by protests. [3] And when the German EU Parliament President Martin Schulz gave a speech in the Knesset on February 12, 2014, again in German, there was a scandal in which eleven members of the right-wing ruling party "Jewish Home" protested and loudly during the speech Left the hall. However, this was due to criticism by Schulz about Israeli settlement policy and the unequal water consumption of Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli culture minister Limor Livnat of the Likud party noted that the protest of the Israeli MPs is understandable when an EU politician stands up and "says things like that, and in German at that", [4] but it was straight not the form - the language - but the content that caused a stir. At the same time, many other MPs distanced themselves from the protest against Schulz. [5] Had he not made his critical remarks, no one would have left the room. This shows that German as the language in the highest Israeli House of Representatives - unthinkable until well into the 1990s - is certainly not yet normal or a matter of course, but in itself it is only a catalyst for conflicts to a limited extent.

The debates touched on an old question: Can language be innocent, can language be separated from the misdeeds of those who speak it? Or are not the words, especially certain words, irredeemably discredited because the National Socialists abused them, manipulated them and used them for their brutal purposes? Anyone who affirms the latter overlooks the fact that language is not a living organism with an ethical awareness, but a human cultural medium, even if it is perhaps its most important. On the other hand, anyone who affirms the first thesis of innocence, or rather: the moral independence of language, forgets that words always touch our emotional side as well. It is true that what the last Shoah survivor among the Knesset MPs, Josef Lapid, said in view of Köhler's speech is true: German is the language of Hitler, Goebbels and Eichmann, but "also the language of Goethe, Schiller and Heine ". [6] But Hemi Doron's objection is also undoubtedly correct that the killer machinery was conceived, planned and implemented in German. In addition, hardly anyone who echoes the roar of concentration camp guards, Nazi henchmen and SS men will be healed of their wounds by thinking of Goethe's May poems.

But there is a group of Jews in Israel who have experienced the conflict between the two theses - from the moral discredit of language on the one hand and the attachment to language as innocent love on the other. It is about the smaller and smaller group of Jews from Germany and Austria, the so-called Jeckes. They can bear testimony of the difficulties, opportunities and successes they experienced when they had to flee Germany in the 1930s. They came to a country in which their mother tongue was discredited as the language of anti-Jewish enemies - but which nonetheless remained their mother tongue because it could not be shed "like a skin". [7]

Early settlements, first controversies

The history of the presence of the German language in Palestine is older than is commonly assumed. And it's a story of language conflict. Large numbers of Germans emigrated to Palestine for the first time in 1868, which at that time still belonged to the Ottoman Empire. [8] This year several hundred Protestant farmers from the Christian Templar community from Baden-Württemberg came to the Holy Land by ship via Genoa. They founded colonies, including in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem, the traces of which are still visible today: churches, schools, cemeteries with German names, town houses with blessings in German on their doors. After the world wars, however, German came to lingua non grata. Because at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 many members of the Templar community cheered the "Führer", the British Mandate Government interned the Templars and expelled them. As silent witnesses to a Protestant German past, houses and names stayed like HaMoshava HaGermanit, the German quarter in Jerusalem.

A few decades earlier, in 1913, German in Palestine had become the object of heated controversy for the first time in the internal Jewish discourse as well. [9] The "Aid Association of German Jews", [10] whose best-known personality Paul Nathan was also a member of the board of the "Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith", has maintained its own schools in this province of the ailing Ottoman Empire since the first major waves of Russian Jews immigrated to Palestine from 1905. The educational work in Palestine quickly raised the question of the first language of instruction in Jewish schools and colleges. It sparked a protracted conflict between mostly anti-Zionist anti-Hebraists and mostly Prozionist Hebraists, which was openly carried out in the German-speaking Jewish press of the Wilhelmine Empire. [11]

Should the Jewish immigrant children to Palestine, many of them from Germany or Yiddish-speaking Russia and Poland, be taught primarily in Hebrew or in German? As expected, the aid association pleaded for the German language. That was ideologically, but also because of power politics. After all, the aid association had committed itself to the imperial government to take into account the "German character" of the schools. [12] During the "meeting of the board of trustees of the Technikum in Berlin" on October 26, 1913, in which a final settlement of the language dispute for the Technikum in Palestine was to be made, two difficultly conciliatory standpoints were ultimately opposed. The Zionist representatives, among them the well-known cultural Zionist Achad Haam, wanted to establish Hebrew as the leading educational variety; for, as Haam emphasized, Hebrew does not only serve the purpose of communication: "For us it is not a question of the children being able to speak Hebrew, it is a matter of the children feeling Hebrew." [13]

Paul Nathan and the Aid Association countered that the lack of teaching materials and the lack of career prospects for school leavers made it impossible to prefer Hebrew in this way. The tip of the scales was ultimately played by the US curators of the technical center, on whose financial support the aid association was dependent. They successfully pushed for Hebrew to be established as the sole language of instruction in all subjects at the technical center after a transition period of seven years. [14] And so the Zionist Actions Committee was able to announce with satisfaction in a specially published paper in 1914: "The principles for which we fought have prevailed." [15]