There are 35 languages and dialects spoken in Israel, the most common of which is Hebrew with over 5 million speakers. Arabic is a distant second, and the increased effects of globalization has also caused the rise of the use of foreign languages, most notably English and Russian.

Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages used in Israel. Modern Hebrew is a dialect of ancient Hebrew and is also known as New Hebrew. It is the most popular language spoken in Israel with over 5 million native speakers and over 9 million overall speakers. Modern Hebrew was officially adopted in Israel in 1922, as one of the provisions of the Palestine Order in Council. Hebrew actually vanished between 200 BCE and 400 BCE but was brought back and revived in the late 19th century, making it one of the best examples of a revival of an extinct language. The widespread use of Hebrew in Israel traces back to 1200 BCE, with many linguists believing that it was used during the period of Babylonian captivity. Hebrew only existed as a literary language and a sacred language in Judaism after its decline in the 2nd century CE. The modern version of Hebrew was revived and standardized by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, a Hebrew lexicographer and newspaper editor. The earliest form of Hebrew is Biblical Hebrew, which later morphed into Mishnaic Hebrew and then into Medieval Hebrew. Modern Hebrew borrows many words from the Bible (approximately 8,000), as well as from German, Russian, English, Polish, Aramaic and Arabic. The state-sponsored Academy of the Hebrew Language regulates the use of Hebrew in Israel.

Literary Arabic is the second official language in Israel, with 20% of the population speaking it as a native language. Despite its official status, Israeli authorities rarely use Literary Arabic unless in cases which are strictly provided for by the law. However, a supreme court ruling enforced the use of Literary Arabic in public signage, government communication and food labels. This law also provides for Arabic to be used during parliamentary proceedings. This is rarely practiced, however, as very few members of the Knesset possess conversational knowledge of Literary Arabic.

Literary Arabic is also known as modern standard Arabic, and it was established in 1922 as an official language, among the provisions of the Palestine Order in Council. Most native speakers of Literary Arabic are descendants of the 156,000 Palestinian Arabs who did not flee Israel during the 1949 war. The Arabic Language Academy regulates the use of Literary Arabic in Israel, which was established by the Israeli government in 2008.

Russian is another major foreign language in Israel and the most popular non-official language in the country, with over 20% of citizens being fluent in Russian.


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