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One of My Greatest Mistakes

By Batya Medad
12/11/2008, 12:00 AM

Last night my husband and I attended the Dinner in Honor of Rav Adin Steinsaltz.  The program featured the Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld.

Learn Hebrew!

I'm sure that the thing that really hit home to me wasn't in any way what Appelfeld considered the most important thing he said.  He mentioned how he taught himself Hebrew.  He copied the Bible word for word and learned from that.  As a new immigrant, a Holocaust survivor, whose formal education was interrupted in the First Grade, Appelfeld knew that he had a lot to learn, and Hebrew was top priority.

That's how Aharon Appelfeld was able to become a great Israeli, Hebrew writer.  He learned Hebrew; he taught himself Hebrew.  I didn't make any real effort to learn Hebrew after managing to "function" in Hebrew.  That's why my writing is restricted to English.  After over thirty-eight years in Israel, I very rarely touch a Hebrew newspaper, and I'm almost phobic about writing more than a few sentences in Hebrew.  "What if I make a mistake?  People will think I'm stupid!"

I know, many of you are going to tell me that it's not too late.  Will I start making more of an effort?  I don't know and am afraid to promise.  Unfortunately, it's possible to live in Israeli without a high level of written Hebrew.  But that's no excuse.  My advice to potential immigrants and new immigrants is to make every effort to reach a high level of Hebrew.  Don't live in the popular "anglo ghettos."  Join Israeli society.  It's the only way we can make a truly valuable contribution to our precious country, Israel.