JAB journal

Hebrew alphabet

Hebrew is the official language of the State of Israel. It belongs to the Semitic group and became independent between the 13th and 7th centuries BC.
Hebrew was revived in its modern form in the 20th century through the efforts of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and a number of enthusiasts who argued that only on its basis could Israel’s national culture be built.в
Each Hebrew letter has two meanings: a semantic one, addressing to antiquity, and a numerical one. The latter is used in gematria, one of the methods of analyzing the meaning of words, based on the sum of the meanings of its constituent letters.
There are 22 characters in the alphabet, but five of them have special lettering — "soffits" — that they take on when they are at the end of words (ך, ם, ן, ף, ץ).
As we delve deeper and deeper into the language, we are imbued with its beauty:
All letters of the alphabet are consonants, but four of them are also used to represent vowels (א, ה, י, ו). These sounds are rendered with ovals as combinations of dots and strokes around the letter. They are found in elementary school and children’s literature, religious texts, and dictionaries. To facilitate reading without vowels, a "full letter" is sometimes used, in which additional letters of the above-mentioned type are placed in place of the expected vowels.
Six pairs of letters can stand for the same sounds:
  • כּ and ק — k,
  • ו and ב — v,
  • ח and כ — kh,
  • ט and ת — t,
  • ס and שׂ — s,
  • ע and א are unreadable.
In the past, each letter had a different sound, but in modern, adapted Hebrew the distinction in pronunciation has been lost, while the spelling is retained.
Usually the letters א, ק, ט, ס, ס are found in foreign words, but to write correctly, it is necessary to memorize words together with their spelling. The same applies to the letters שׁ and שׂ (sounds "sh" and "s"), which are not usually dotted.
Some letters have different pronunciation depending on their position in the word כ, ב, פ are pronounced as "k", "b" and "p" at the beginning of the word, and as "kh", "v" and "f" at the end of the word. At the same time, both variants are possible in the middle of the word. The same applies to dagesh, dots inside some letters, which change their sound, but are not usually put in writing: בּ and ב for "b" and "v". To read correctly, one must know either the words themselves or the grammatical laws by which the pronunciation of the letter is determined.
Hebrew words are written from right to left, the letters are not joined and have the same case (no capitalization).
In addition to the printed lettering, Hebrew also has a handwritten lettering that adds dynamism and richness:
Developing interfaces that take Hebrew into account has a number of additional challenges. At a minimum, you need to mirror the layout of elements (remembering that "back" is now a right arrow), as well as correctly handle text input from right to left, including punctuation marks. The latter, for example, cannot be handled by WhatsApp or the text editor Sublime Text.
Hebrew is spoken by 9.5 million people (2019 data). The domestic market is small, so adequate web services should have support for English as a minimum.
In reality, the situation is a bit different: many businesses do not go into such "trifles", leaving the content only in Hebrew. This leads to lost profits, but the peculiarities of the mentality do not allow you to make a step towards the client.
The low demand results in a small number of fonts supporting Hebrew, and even fewer supporting, for example, Hebrew, English and Russian. And the latter have fonts that look like they are from a different set:
One of the more or less successful ones is probably Greta Text, licensed for many thousands of euros:
At the same time, Arabic script remains important for the domestic market, as this language, while not an official language, retains a special status. Liron Lavi Turkenich has taken on the task of unifying the languages. She took advantage of the fact that Arabic letters are identifiable by their upper parts, while Hebrew letters are identifiable by their lower parts:

Unfortunately, with all our passion for fonts, we don’t have the competence to create them. Perhaps in the future we will get to this point, or a font designer will join us, but for now we are content with what we have.