Native Hebrew Speakers
About 63 percent of the people in Israel speak native Hebrew, and it’s the country’s official language. About 4 percent of Palestinians also have it as their original tongue, but the country has not designated it as an official speaking preference.
No other countries have assigned Hebrew to be their official language. However, about 6-8 million people worldwide have grown up speaking this tongue in their households. (It’s tough to find a close estimate because reports vary by source and year.)
Hebrew as a Second Language
Besides Israel and Palestine, they use Hebrew in the following places: Gaza, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and USA. About 2 million people speak Hebrew as a second language.
In some cases, they might not use it every day. Not everyone may use it fluently either or still may take classes for it with the intention of using it more often.
Hebrew as a Holy Language
If you include people who use it as a “holy language” the total number of people tallied may include approximately 9 million. Some people only use it during prayer times.
Otherwise, they might recite portions of the Torah or Talmud while in a place of worship, such as in an Orthodox Jew synagogue or Messianic Jew assembly. Some non-denominational Bible scholars, whether of a Judaism background or a Christian background, also use it.
One reason that people study Hebrew who also study scripture do so to gain a historical context. It provides a perspective of how first-century believers in the Messiah (otherwise known as Jesus), lived versus after Christianity spread.
Attempts to Restore Hebrew
The first effort to restore Hebrew as a common language took place in the mid-nineteenth century. Eliezer Ben Yehuda (1858-1922), became the first to speak only Hebrew in his house during this time. He also promoted using this language in schools.
As reported by Thomas Moore Delvin of Babbel in 2019, Hebrew became the only successfully revived language ever. Quartz researcher Lane Greene also confirms this and mad similar reports about restoring it.
Before people began speaking it regularly again, this language did not exist in everyday life for more than 2,000 years. However, it probably never completely died out like 7,000 other languages did because of its consistent use in religious practices.
Classical Hebrew, otherwise known as “ancient Hebrew” probably existed when many of the scrolls that make up the first half of the modern-day Bible were written. One of the primary differences between it is the “W” and “V” sounds, as in “Yahweh” versus “Yahveh” that scholars use to translate the name of “God” as found in scriptures.
Aramaic, which may also have been used for some scripture writings, has some sounds similar to Hebrew. Two others include the Yiddish and Ladino languages.