Sunday, November 9, 2014

Israel recognises "Aramaics" as separate ethnic group!

JISH, Israel, Nov 9 (Reuters) - In the green hills of the Galilee, where Jesus is said to have preached two thousand years ago, a group of Aramaic speakers looking to revive the language of Christ are celebrating a victory in their quest to safeguard their heritage.

In a place where tensions run high on issues of ethnicity, faith and citizenship, members of the Christian sect have won the right to change their designation in the population registry from "Arab" to a newly-created ethnic classification: "Aramaic."

The group that sought the change is small, a few hundred people at most, but their campaign is part of a larger debate on issues of identity in the Holy Land and Israel's treatment of its Arab minority.

Supporters say Israel's agreement to allow the group to define itself as "Aramaic" is a sign of ethnic tolerance.

But critics call it an attempt by the government to encourage splits within its Arab population, which largely defines itself as Palestinian and makes up about a fifth of the country's 8.2 million citizens.

Others say it is also another reflection of the reality for Arabs in Israel, where many Arab citizens say they are discriminated against.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Culture Dispute Is All Aramaic to Us.Why Do Arab Israeli Christians Lobby For a New Identity?

The interior of the house of a Christian family in Jerusalem, ca. 1850. 
 Some of you may have been following the stories from Israel about a small group of Christian Arabs from the Galilee successfully petitioning the Israeli Ministry of Interior to register them as “Aramaeans” rather than Arabs. Led by a Greek Orthodox priest, Gabriel Nadaf, this same group has also been active in encouraging young Israeli Christian Arabs to volunteer for service in the Israeli army and has been vocal in its pro-Israel, anti-Arab sentiments. As a result, it has come under heavy fire from Israeli Arab politicians and some Israeli Christian church leaders, who have accused its members of being quislings.


You may ask how serious all this can be. After all, Aramaic (or Syriac, as it also is called), though once dominant throughout the Middle East before being pushed out by Arabic, has not been spoken in the Galilee, or anywhere else in Israel, for centuries. (Although no one knows exactly when its last speakers vanished, this was clearly long ago.) In another generation or two, indeed, it may no longer be spoken by anyone anywhere, because it is faced with the prospect of extinction. The number of its users, formerly many millions, has dwindled to a few hundred thousand, nearly all of whom are bilingual and many of whom are raising their children in Arabic. Moreover, these speakers divide into two main populations — a larger one, mostly in northern Iraq, speaking “eastern Aramaic,” and a much smaller one in southwestern Syria, speaking “western Aramaic” — both of which are living in war zones and have been badly affected by the fighting. Almost entirely Christian, they have been targeted by Islamic forces and many have fled or immigrated to places where Aramaic is not spoken.


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