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Ben-Yehuda: Son of Zion

Story in One Sentence

Exodus meets The Patriot.

Story Synopsis

Ben-Yehuda is a biographical motion picture based on the life and work of ELIEZER BEN-YEHUDA, the philologist and Zionist whose pioneering work resulted in the revival of Hebrew from a language used only in prayer and Talmudic scholarship into the spoken language of today.

Our story begins in Russia in the late 1850s, where Eliezer is born to a poor family. We see his dedication to the Law and to the Hebrew language as he moves to private study away from home after the death of his father. We meet the family that shapes his love of the Hebrew language, and the young woman who is to become his future wife, DEBORAH JONAS, and her sister PAULA, who will become Eliezer’s wife after Deborah dies.

While a student in Paris, Eliezer Perelman changes his name to Eliezer Ben-Yehuda as his sense of the political realities of Eastern Europe shape his views. He meets TCHACHNIKOV, a Polish nobleman who is a correspondent for a Russian newspaper. Tchachnikov introduces Ben-Yehuda to a world of society and free-thinkers. Tchachnikov encourages Ben-Yehuda to voice his ideas about a homeland for the Jews in Hebrew newspapers in Europe.

When Ben-Yehuda is diagnosed with tuberculosis, he decides to move to Jerusalem, where his health, and his work, will be benefited. Deborah joins him as his wife.

Upon the young couple’s arrival in the Land of Israel, a series of adventures greets them. Tchachnikov meets them and, in a bit of sword play, rescues them from the hands of some robbers. They go on to meet their future employer, the publisher of one of the top Hebrew newspapers in Israel.

As the years pass, they have children and see the establishment of the first of the agricultural settlements. Opposition from the local rabbis, as personified in RABBI RAFAEL MEIR, is a constant threat.

Ben-Yehuda overcomes, with tears and toil, the stoning of his son BEN-ZION (and his dog!) by the angry opposition, the death of his wife Deborah, the publication of the first volumes of his pioneering Hebrew dictionary, imprisonment under the Turkish overlords, and the liberation of Jerusalem by General Allenby at the end of World War One.

Our story ends with the cornerstone being laid for Ben-Yehuda’s permanent home on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. He dies before it can be completed, and the impact of his life on Jewish society to this day is summarized as a VOICE-OVER EULOGY.

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