Hebrew: The Language of Love and Unity

By: Ruchama Benhamou  |  October 12, 2023

By Ruchama Benhamou, Managing Editor

In a recent heartfelt conversation with my friend who’s currently serving in the IDF, the incredible power of language and words became strikingly clear to me. As we fondly revisited our shared experiences in Israel, a profound connection surged through us — a bond forged by our love and dedication to our nation, our people, and our faith. 

By the end of our exchange, with tears rolling down my face — a testament to the depth of emotion —  he uttered the stirring words, “thank you for everything, Ḥaim Sheli.”

Israeli culture, as embodied in its language, has forever humbled me. It accentuates unity and connection in ways that resonate profoundly. From my perspective, the English language falls short in conveying the vivid and emotional endearment present in intimate friendships — friendships rooted in unconditional and unending love. It struggles to articulate this togetherness, restrained by its limited rhetoric, while Hebrew’s linguistic embrace knows no bounds. It’s within the Hebrew phrases “Ḥaim Sheli” and “Aḥi” that my heart, soul, and spirit find unadulterated pride and passion for our homeland. Israel was sculpted on the principles of unity, compassion, and love for others; its language stands as the finest tool to achieve peace and justice against violence and hate.

With this conviction, I address you, my fellow students in the YU community:

As a Jew and Zionist living in America, I urge you to remember your Israeli and Jewish identities. Despite potential fears of repercussions or existential hopelessness in the diaspora, we possess the means to make a difference. Our words, our voices, our unwavering commitment and solidarity can serve as pillars of support for Israel.

To fully harness our language of love and unity, we must combat hate, indifference, and ignorance — the insidious poisons that paralyze our world. They are an ideological menace, one that we can only combat through exposure of immorality and a peaceful advocacy for truth and equity. It is our duty, here in America, to stand up for Israel publicly, and become advocates for our land and its people who currently grapple to defend themselves on vast media platforms and news broadcasts. They are at war, fighting physically, which means it falls upon us to wage the ideological battle.

I implore you not to remain silent. 

As Elie Wiesel wrote, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Now is our time to rise up, to speak up, and to genuinely make a difference. Am Israel Chai!