Where Do Languages Go to Die?

The tale of Aramaic, a language that once ruled the Middle East and now faces extinction.


If a Middle Eastern man from 2,500 years ago found himself on his home territory in 2015, he would be shocked by the modern innovations, and not just electricity, airplanes, and iPhones. Arabic as an official language in over two dozen countries would also seem as counterintuitive to him as if people had suddenly started keeping aardvarks as pets.

In our time-traveler’s era, after all, Arabic was an also-ran tongue spoken by obscure nomads. The probability that he even spoke it would be low. There were countless other languages in the Middle East in his time that he’d be more likely to know. His idea of a “proper” language would have been Aramaic, which ruled what he knew as the world and served, between 600 and 200 B.C.E., as the lingua franca from Greece and Egypt, across Mesopotamia and Persia, all the way through to India. Yet today the language of Jesus Christ is hardly spoken anywhere, and indeed is likely to be extinct within the next century. Young people learn it ever less. Only about half a million people now speak Aramaic—compared to, for example, the five and a half million people who speak Albanian.

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One clue lies in its geographic fragmentation: Today there is no one “Aramaia” where the language is spoken. Its varieties are now used in small, obscure communities spread far apart across Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, and Georgia. There are also expatriate communities of speakers scattered even further away, in Chicago, as well as Paramus and Teaneck in New Jersey.

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Israeli Christian Children Connect to Aramean Roots.

It is time for most children in this region to head off to summer camp, and the Arabic-speaking Christians largely concentrated in Israel’s north are no exception.



But while Israeli Jewish children will be doing largely recreational activities and Palestinian kids in Gaza will be training for violence at the hands of Hamas, the Christians will be reconnecting to their ancient Aramean roots.

The Israeli Christian Aramaic Summer Camp began last Thursday under the auspices of the Israeli Aramaic Christian Association (ICAA) in the Galilee town of Kfar Baram.

Prior to the start of the camp, the ICAA published the following Hebrew-language press release:
"…[From] July 30 - August 3 will be held the first Christian Aramean children’s camp following the historic recognition by the State of Israel and the Jewish people of the Arabic-speaking Christians in the Land as the descendants of the Aramean nation.

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ISIS selling ancient Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts online.

Having looted and pillaged ancient heritage sites across Iraq and Syria, Islamic State is now believed to be selling stolen artefacts on social media sites.

Facebook has now taken down pages thought to be selling artefacts such as coins, statues and manuscripts written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. It is thought that the items have all come from Syria.

Reuters
Islamic State militants have desecrated numerous churches, including this one in Maaloula, Syria.

Washington DC-based journalist Zaid Benjamin was the first to highlight the issue, posting screenshots of the pages to Twitter on June 4.

A privacy spokesman for Facebook told Fox News: "We may not always be able to identify artefacts as stolen, but insofar as we can when someone reports content to us, we will remove this content."

ISIS militants have taken millions of pounds worth of artefacts from ancient buildings, including churches, across Iraq and Syria since the group began its uprising. A senior Iraqi intelligence official told the Guardian last year that jihadists had taken $36million, around £23million, from the al-Nabuk area – a mountainous region west of Damascus.

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Tedmurta a.k.a. Palmyra


The ancient city of Palmyra was known us Tedmurta in Aramaic.



The temple of Baal in Palmyra.


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Hebrew Word of the Week: Mammon.


by Yona Sabar
Mammon is not in the Bible, where other words are used, such ashon ve-’osher be-veto, “Wealth and riches are in his house” (of the righteous) (Psalms 112:3), but it is very common in (Aramaic),Targumim and rabbinic literature. It may come from ma’mon “trust, deposit.”

In Christianity, however, Mammon* has been associated with covetousness of wealth, the seventh sin (Matthew 6:24: You cannot serve God and mammon).

In modern Hebrew, mamon is quite common with regard to financial and property business, such as mimmen, “financed”; mimmun, “financing”; mamonay, “financier”; mamoni, “monetary”; anddine’ mamonot, “civil (property) laws.”

*Some Hebrew-Aramaic names and nouns entered English (via Latin-Greek), from the New Testament, such as Thomas, “twin (brother)” and abba, “father.”

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

Article found here.
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A Christian Community's Struggle to Survive.

By Kinda Jayoush

Touma, her husband, and their three children preferred the risk of living in Maaloula to the pain of leaving home.


Rana Touma and her three children were living in Damascus when they received a coffee mug with a picturesque image of Maaloula. Their eyes filled with tears because they feared they would never again see their hometown.

In December 2013, armed rebel groups, including Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra, attacked Maaloula, an ancient Christian enclave. The town prided itself on being the last place on earth where people speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

For months to follow, clashes between rebel groups and government forces destroyed most of the town's historic homes, churches and monasteries. Rebels kidnapped 13 nuns and killed those who resisted. Residents were forced to flee their homes. In a country where Christians are perceived to be disappearing or under threat of attack, it raised questions about the community's very survival.

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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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