Ben-Yehuda's birthday hailed as 'Hebrew Day'

Country to begin celebra

Four days before the 152nd birthday of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, the cabinet on Sunday decided to push forward the declaration of 21 Tevet, Ben-Yehuda's birthday, as National Hebrew Day. In addition, the cabinet - holding just the fourth cabinet discussion on Hebrew since the founding of the state in 1948 - established a committee to come up with recommendations on how to strengthen the language in day-to-day usage. The panel will be chaired by Moshe Bar-Asher, the chairman of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. Among those on the committee will be the heads of the country's radio and television stations. The cabinet also decided to establish a workshop for ministers to improve their Hebrew skills. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he would participate. The ministers will also look into creating an NIS 70,000 annual prize in Ben-Yehuda's name for those working on the development of the language, as well as turning to the country's local authorities and asking them to name streets after others who, along with Ben-Yehuda, were responsible for the revival of Hebrew. Bar-Asher briefed the cabinet on his academy's activities, and urged the ministers to give it an annual budget of NIS 9 million, rather than it having to plead each year for money to support the institution. During the discussion, Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom questioned the spelling of a word in material on the academy distributed to the ministers, and also asked why a Hebrew term could not be found instead of using the word "academia." Netanyahu joked that maybe Shalom should join the academy, and Bar-Asher asked why Shalom did not Hebraicize his first name, "Silvan." Shalom told the amused ministers that his name, as it appears in his identification card, is Zion Silvan Moshe, but that Silvan is the one that took hold. Deputy Minister of Pensioner Affairs Leah Ness jokingly asked him how, then, did he come to be known in English as "Steve." That question remained unanswered.