Easy Hebrew Newspaper: The Gate for the Beginner – Goes Out of Print
History of the Newspaper
The much beloved easy Hebrew, Sha’ar La’matchil (“Gate for Beginners”) newspaper that has been used by new immigrants (olim) to Israel since 1956 has been discontinued. The last edition was published the first week of April 2012. The final edition included a note saying, “thank all readers, teachers, and administration staff in Israel and overseas for the love they’ve shown for the newspaper during its 50 years of existence, and also thank you to those who contacted us in recent weeks and expressed concerns and support for us.”
The Education Ministry’s “Department for Spreading the Language” created the weekly newspaper in March 1956. The newspaper clearly stated it’s purpose in it’s first edition, “On this page we want to tell you about our life in the country, in simple language. We invite you to read this page until you are able to read a daily newspaper in Hebrew.”
One occasion of note during the newspaper’s publication was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s note to readers on the occasion of its 1000th edition in June 1988. Her wrote, “Who, more than you, readers of Sha’ar La’matchil, know about the pains and difficulties inherent in the effort to assimilate into a new society. Despite all these difficulties, it can be said that Israel’s society has succeeded in this effort to absorb new immigrants. The newspaper Sha’ar La’matchil definitely contributed to this success. Its distribution around the world enhances another undertaking which the State of Israel has assumed, the project of teaching Hebrew in the Diaspora,”
The newspaper eventually was privatized, however, it remained edited and supervised by Education Ministry official. Initially it was published under Davar newspaper, the publisher of the Jerusalem Post, but for the past number of years it was published by Yediot Achronot.
Who read the Paper
The paper didn’t cease to have a fan base. In fact, it’s demise has been called a “bureaucratic failure” by ministry officials. One Ministry official commented “Under terms described in the last tender offer for rights to publish the weekly, nobody was prepared to take responsibility for the publication,” in other words, the paper simply couldn’t manage to find a publisher.
The weekly easy Hebrew newspaper was a success with a large array of students. From Jewish olim from North America, Latin America, and Europe to Jewish and non-Jewish Hebrew language students in colleges and universities, young and elderly.
The newspaper has long served Hebrew language ulpan classes in Israel, as well as overseas students. It was read in university classrooms overseas, and by elderly persons and young students from Israel’s Arab sector. The weekly turned into a symbol of immigration to Israel and of the revival of the Hebrew language; it featured simple Hebrew syntax, diacritic marks and a fixed vocabulary − in an effort to make Hebrew accessible to immigrants to Israel and to lovers of the ancient language overseas.
What the Newspaper Offered
Sha’ar La’Matchil includes the latest news, updates and columns, offering its readers the perfect way to improve their Hebrew language while providing them with current and up to date news from Israel in easy Hebrew with vowel marks. (continue reading for a list of all the features in the newspaper.
Why it Failed
The closing of the newspaper could also be due to marketing failures. There aren’t copies sitting in government offices and no one anywhere along the immigration process handed out a copy or even mentioned it to Olim. I’ve spoken to many anglo-olim (English speaking immigrants to Israel) about using the newspaper. Most of them said that they never heard of such a newspaper but probably would be interested in reading it.
After visiting the “buy now” tab on the newspaper’s website visitors receive the following message:
Dear Sha’ar La’matchil subscriber,
On April the 1st 2012 the publication of the weekly digital newspaper will end.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading the digital newspaper and hope it was a learning experience.
Your monthly payments via credit card or any alternative method of payment will be cancelled, and you will not receive any further charges.
For inquiries and any additional information, please contact customer service at
There is no information available about buying a subscription to the archives, something they should strongly consider. Perhaps the paper could collect digital subscriptions funds and produce a bi-annual news compendium or short easy Hebrew articles and essays. But I doubt there is such a strong interest in a news archive but, still, learners might be willing to overlook the outdated articles in favor of the high quality easy to read Hebrew articles.
My Personal Experience with the Paper
Language learning websites frequently advise learners to read in their target language. Finding suitable material that is both appropriate for the level of the learner and captivates their interest is extremely challenging. When I started learning Hebrew Sha’ar le’matchil did this beautifully. There were several levels of difficulty in the articles. Some contained more simple vocabulary and syntax while others almost resembled an average Israeli newspaper. The newspaper offered reader’s who struggled with grammar and exact pronunciation nekudot. Articles didn’t seem fully menukad or without nekudot, but rather a blend between the two, that allowed readers to easily bridge the gap between material aimed towards children and early beginners to the the entire body of Hebrew literature. For me, Shaar laMatchil embodied the Israeli Oleh spirit. It embodied the collective Israeli spirit that embraced Jews of all backgrounds and welcomed them back to their homeland. I will miss being able to a share this paper with people learning Hebrew.
Features in the Newspaper:
News and Current Affairs: News and headlines in extremely easy Hebrew, news and information in basic Hebrew, news for the advanced reader, the week in review.
This week 60 years ago: Newspaper headlines from the early days of the State of Israel.
Introducing: Interviews with prominent individuals from all walks of life, interviews with new immigrants and individuals engaged in immigration absorption.
Small Stories from the Big World: Images and concise articles about unique or peculiar events around the world.
Home and Family: Food, health, fashion, child education, consumerism.
Culture and Art: Classics, news and recommendations for books, poetry, music, theater, dance, artwork, photography, Hebrew songs.
All in the Family: Domestic and inter-personal problems.
Gateway to Hebrew: Words, expressions, sayings, words in the news, Hebrew grammatical phenomena, Biblical language, slang, grammar books and new dictionaries.
The Weekly Portion: The narrative of the weekly portion in easy Hebrew, a discussion on the language of the portion and topics and expressions therein.
Israeli Heritage: Holidays and commemorative dates, the Jewish circle of life.
Milestones: Events in the history of Zionism and the State of Israel.
In Israel: Nature, trips.
Education and Society: Trends and quandaries in Israeli education and society.
Immigration and Absorption: Information for new and potential immigrants.
Readers Write: Readers are welcome to comment, express their views and make suggestions.
Gateway Quiz: Crossword puzzles, riddles and jokes.
One of the older editions:
The thousandth edition: