Palestinian Christians try to revive Aramaic

I found this at Al-Arabiya:

Christian communities in two Palestinian and Arab-Israeli villages are teaching the language that Jesus spoke, centuries after it all but disappeared from the Middle East.
In the village of Beit Jala, which lies next to Bethlehem, an older generation of Aramaic speakers is trying to share the language with their grandchildren, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Meanwhile, in the Arab-Israeli village of Jish , elementary school children are being instructed in Aramaic.
The religious significance of the two villages is clear; Bethlehem is where the New Testament says Jesus was born, while Jish is believed to be where Jesus lived and preached.
“This is our collective heritage and culture. We should celebrate and study it,” the principal of the Jish Elementary School told AP. The school has become the only Israeli public school teaching Aramaic, according to the education ministry.
Although several Jish residents had lobbied for Aramaic studies several years ago, the report noted, the Muslim community in the village had voiced its concern.
“Muslims were worried it was a covert attempt to entice their children to Christianity,” the report said, whereas some Christians also objected to Aramaic being taught too, saying the emphasis on their ancestral language was being used to strip them of their Arab identity.
The issue is sensitive to many Arab Muslims and Christians in Israel who prefer to be identified by their ethnicity, not their faith.

If I ever get the chance to visit that part of the world again, I would love to visit those villages to hear Aramaic being spoken. The Syriac script, shown below, is halfway between Hebrew and Arabic scripts.

The Aramaic language (of which Syriac is a dialect) is of great interest to both Christians and Jews. Parts of the Bible, the Talmud and several other religious texts were written in Aramaic. The above text is a Christian one. As for Muslims, as far as I can tell, the only language of any sanctity would be Arabic – though Persian has traditionally been held in high esteem. Generally speaking, it seems that wherever Islam spread, Aramaic disappeared. Christians, and a few Jews, were the only ones who retained it. According to Jewish tradition, Aramaic is the oldest language in the world, having been spoken by Adam and Eve – and Abraham who spent some time in Aram, from whence the name “Aramaic” comes.
But while the spread of Islam took centuries to largely replace Aramaic with Arabic, the recent American invasion of Iraq (and now possibly Syria) has destroyed most of what remains in a few short years. The remnant Aramaic speakers of Iraq are now rapidly being dispersed to other lands, where there is little chance of being able to pass this legacy on to their children.

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3 Responses to Palestinian Christians try to revive Aramaic

  1. Nyk says:

    Looking forward to the Middle-Eastern Christians’ version of Eliezer ben-Yehuda (who helped revive the Hebrew language).

  2. Ariston says:

    Too bad they’ve almost completely ethnically cleansed from Israel, mostly heading to the US & Canada.

  3. IHTG says:

    Whenever Arabs dig into their linguistic past, they always discover that the languages they used to speak are disturbingly (to them) similar to Hebrew. After which they quickly stop digging.

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