Christian Villages Attempt to Revive Language Jesus Spoke

A number of centuries after it disappeared from the Middle East region, efforts are being made to revive the ancient Aramaic language that many believe Jesus spoke.

The Palestinian village of Beit Jala, which is close to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, is one of two villages where elders are trying to teach the language to young children hoping they will take it up.

The other village is the Arab-Israeli community of Jish, where Christ once lived and preached – there children in elementary school are being taught Aramaic. The village is of the Maronite Christian community, which is one of the few that still chant prayers in Aramaic, though not many understand the meaning of the words, the Associated Press reported.

"We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke," expressed Carla Hadd, a 10-year-old Jish girl studying the language.

"We used to speak it a long time ago," she added, referring to her ancestors.

Aramaic teachers in Jish have said they have few opportunities to practice the ancient tongue, and although they only have moderate expectations, they hope that they can at least revive an understanding of the language.

The elementary school's principal, Reem Khatieb-Zuabi, shared that Israel's education ministry provided funds to add classes until the eighth grade. Jish residents had apparently lobbied for Aramaic studies several years ago, but faced opposition from Muslims who were afraid the language effort was an attempt to convert children into Christianity and strip them of their Arab identity.

The two different villages are apparently getting support from a Swedish Aramaic-speaking community descended from the Middle East, who are trying to keep the language alive. The community has a newspaper, "Bahro Suryoyo," pamphlets and children's books, and maintains a satellite television station, "Soryoyosat."

The Swedish Aramaic community even has a soccer team, Syrianska FC, which plays in Sweden's top league.