Linguist Ze’ev Ben-Chaim Is Born
Ze’ev Ben-Haim. Photo: Hebrew Language Academy

December 28, 1907

Linguistic scholar Ze’ev Ben-Chaim is born in Mosciska, Galicia, in present-day Ukraine.

Ben-Chaim is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of Hebrew and Aramaic. His research revolves around the Samaritans’ language, and his work reveals that the Samaritan community preserves a tradition of reading Hebrew texts that was established during the Second Temple period. Ben-Chaim publishes a five-volume work translating ancient Samaritan texts into Hebrew and Aramaic.

Ben-Chaim is a founder of the Historical Dictionary, a project that aims to collect every Hebrew word used since the language began more than 3,000 years ago.

Ben-Chaim in 1931 travels to Palestine, where he studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for a year. He is ordained as a rabbi in 1933 and is awarded a doctorate in Semitic linguistics by the University of Breslau in Poland. Also in 1933, Ben-Chaim immigrates to Palestine.

He is appointed a Hebrew University lecturer in the Hebrew language in 1948, and he is elected in 1954 as a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, where he later serves as editor and eventually serves as its second president.

Ben-Chaim’s honors include the Israel Prize for Jewish studies in 1964, the Rothschild Prize in 1971 and the Boblik Prize from Hebrew University in 1994.

Ben-Chaim dies in Jerusalem in August 2013 at the age of 105