'The revival of the Hebrew language was a process that took place in Europe and Israel at the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, through which the Hebrew language changed from a sacred language to a spoken and written language used in daily life. Modern Hebrew is, together with the literary Arabic language, the official language of the modern state of Israel, and even before the state's establishment it was one of the official languages of the British Mandate for Palestine. Not purely a linguistic process, the revival of Hebrew was part of an ideology associated with Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
The process of Hebrew's return to regular usage is unique; there are no other examples of a language without any native speakers subsequently acquiring several million such native speakers, and no other examples of a sacred language becoming a national language with millions of first language speakers.'
This means that a bunch of people had to teach themselves to speak a language that NOBODY IN THE WORLD spoke. I think that's pretty amazing. What fascinates me about the process of learning Modern Hebrew is seeing how the ancient language has been adapted and retrofitted for use in today's world - while staying true to itself.
I'm practicing conversation with some old recordings I bought from DLI when I was a student there (so very long ago!) and with DVDs of two popular Israeli shows, Srugim and BeTipul.
Srugim ("Knitted", referring to the knitted skullcaps popular with religious-Zionist men) is a serial drama about five young, single, modern-orthodox adults in Jerusalem. I love this show because it captures the tension and conflict that go with being an observant Jew living in the modern world.
If your relationship status with the Jewish religion is "it's complicated", this show is for you.
All of the characters - Yifat, Hodaya, Reut, Amir, and Nati - struggle to define their relationships with each other, with the world, and with Judaism. I relate most to Hodaya; her relationship with religion is intense and personal, and so her struggle with it is intense and personal. The show does a great job of presenting religious Jews for a largely secular Israeli audience in a way that isn't stereotyped or caricatured, which is a big deal in itself.
The other show, BeTipul ("In Treatment"), was remade in an American version. It's a drama with a psychologist, Reuven Dagan (Assi Dayan) and his various patients. There's a femme fatale named Naamah who tries to seduce him, a military pilot named Yadin who's been disciplined for accidentally bombing a school building, a high school girl named Ayala, and a couple named Orna and Michael. And there are also episodes showing Reuven's sessions with his therapist/mentor, Gila (Gila Almagor).
It's a fascinating show, and very challenging to follow because there are no English subtitles, only Hebrew captions. Plus there's no action at all, just two people sitting in chairs talking to each other. So you really have to know Hebrew to follow it! I have to stop the DVD a lot to look up words, but it's great practice.