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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