Reviving the language of Jesus' time

Sunday, September 09, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

While Yeshua (Jesus) and many other Jews of his time undoubtedly spoke Hebrew, as well as Greek, the common tongue in the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago was Aramaic. An ancient Syrian language that also has ties to Abraham's family, Aramaic was the language of the market and of every day conversation. It was the language Yeshua spoke most often.

But unlike Hebrew and its modern day revival, Aramaic remains largely a dead language. Aramaic is the official liturgical language of the Maronite and Syrian Orthodox churches, and large portions of Jewish liturgy remain in the original Aramaic, but few understand the words of the prayers they are reciting.

However, there is growing interest in reintroducing Aramaic as a living language in the Holy Land, and the movement is starting among the Maronite Christians living in the Galilee region.

Recently, the state-run elementary school in the Galilee Arab town of Jish successfully petitioned Israel's Ministry of Education to reintroduce Aramaic as an official, though voluntary, course. Today, some 80 children from the village are actively studying and using the language that many feared was on the verge of dying out completely in the Holy Land.

The children are assisted in this endeavor by an Aramaic-language satellite television channel broadcast from Sweden, where an immigrant community with as many as 80,000 members still uses Aramaic as their mother-tongue.

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