Hebrew (עברית) is the official language of Israel and the liturgical language of Judaism. It belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, along with languages such as Arabic and Amharic. Hebrew is spoken by some 5 million people mainly in Israel.
Classical Hebrew was spoken between the 11th and 6th centuries BCE in various forms and was used to write the Hebrew Bible, which is the basis of the Christian Old Testament. Hebrew was later displaced as a vernacular language, mainly by Aramaic. Modern Hebrew was developed in the 19th and 20th centuries CE as a revival of what was then an unspoken language. The spoken revival is often attributed to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, who wanted Hebrew to be the primary Jewish language in secular as well as religious contexts. When the state of Israel was founded, this modern version was immediately adopted as an official language.
Hebrew is written using the Hebrew script. This writing system is classified as an abjad, as it only consists of consonant letters, though there are optional means of indicating vowels. Diacritic marks may be used in children’s books, or for words whose pronunciation is unclear, like foreign loanwords. Other methods for showing previously unwritten vowels are particularly common in Modern Hebrew. The Hebrew script has 22 letters, and unlike European alphabets like Latin and Greek, it is written from right to left. It does not distinguish upper and lower case, but five letters change forms when written at the end of a word.
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