skip to content

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

 

 

Introduction to Hebrew at Cambridge

Hebrew is a fascinating language, the language of the Bible and of Jewish theology, religious law and thought, re-invented as the language of a fast-growing and young culture. We provide a thorough grounding in Modern and Biblical Hebrew in the context of broader Middle Eastern culture and literature.

You will have the option of studying Hebrew on its own or in combination with Arabic, Persian or a modern European language offered by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. Arabic, Hebrew and Persian are offered from scratch. 

Studying Hebrew and Arabic, for example, provides a fully rounded appreciation of the Middle East and is an excellent preparation for working in international relations, development, conflict resolution and journalism. 

Our Hebrew programme allows you to experience every aspect of Hebrew language and literature. You will be able to study:

  • the ancient Hebrew that underpins Jewish religious life and has been profoundly important in the development of Christianity
  • the vital modern language of Hebrew literature, culture and media

The Hebrew staff includes renowned experts, whose works covers topics ranging from the medieval manuscripts in the world famous Taylor Schechter Genizah Collection to contemporary Israeli film and gender studies. 

Depnding on your choice to combine with other languages, you will have the choice of a variety of courses relating to Middle Eastern culture and history,

Hebrew has a unique history. It is the only language to have died out as a mother tongue, and then resurrected as a vibrant, modern spoken language. The language of the Israelites and their ancestors, it flourished in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. A series of conquests led to its replacement by Aramaic and Greek and by around 400 CE it had completely died out as a vernacular language. While Hebrew was no long spoken, it remained the language of Jewish prayer and worship in the synagogue and at home, of the Jewish Bible, law and religous thought. It further survived into the Middle Ages as a written lingua franca for poetry, philosophy, science and medicine, commerce and legal documents across the Jewish world. The 19th century saw the conscious revival of Hebrew as a living, spoken language, largely through the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a German emigrant to Palestine, who laid the foundations that transformed Hebrew, creating the dynamic, fast moving language of today.