Until very recently, virtually no one understood the crucial role the Greek language played in Israel and America becoming two of the world's most prominent nations. The founders of both of these countries learned to read the Greek language so that they could study the Greek philosophers and found their nations on Greece's governmental principles and philosophy.
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres recently revealed this profound piece of history in Washington, D.C. as he was honored before a room full of senior US policymakers and opinion leaders at the Washington Oxi Day Foundation Gala. He explained that the Greek language enabled Israel's "Founding Father" David Ben-Gurion to properly found Israel. Peres said:
David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the state of Israel, decided to learn the Greek language. Why? He thought there was something missing in our history that was the meaning of the state. He thought that we had great prophets, we have great priests, and maybe we have some good kings, but we do not know real statesmen.
Ben-Gurion asked for advisors to come and teach him what he thought was one of the weaknesses of Judaism, the lack of understanding what is a state. Everyone thought that what we miss in our Bible is found in the Greek philosophy. He studied the Greek language and made it part of our ideology. He decided to learn the Greek philosophy in order to understand what it means to be the head of a state.
To see a video of the full remarks, click here.
America's primary founders, who could read, write and speak Greek fluently, included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Even George Washington, known as the Father of his country, stopped studying Greek only when his father died and they could no longer afford the Greek education. However, he continued studying Greece's philosophical principles in translated texts. At the US Constitutional Convention, Greece was referred to frequently and one out of every five of the Federalist papers, the documents explaining the new government, made reference to Greece.
Interestingly, even the creation of Modern Greece in 1821 benefited from this Greek governmental wisdom in America. At that time Petros Mavromichalis, a founder of the Modern Greek state, wrote to the citizens of the United States, "In imitating you, we shall imitate our ancestors and be thought worthy of them if we succeed in resembling you."
Andy Manatos is President of the public policy company of Manatos & Manatos, the Washington Oxi Day Foundation and the Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, through which his company contributes heavily to Greek and Greek Orthodox matters. He is a former US Senate Committee Staff Director and Assistant Secretary of Commerce.