Jerusalem Villages Seek to Revive Aramaic

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Two villages in the Holy Land's tiny Christian community are hoping to revive Aramaic, the language that some say Jesus spoke, by teaching it to the next generation.

The residents of Beit Jala near Bethlehem, and the Israeli Arab village of Jish in Galilee, are getting a little help from modern technology: an Aramaic-speaking TV channel from Sweden where a vibrant immigrant community has kept the ancient tongue alive.

In Jish, elementary school children are now being instructed in Aramaic. The children belong mostly to the Maronite Christian community. Maronites still chant their liturgy in Aramaic, but few understand the prayers.

"We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke," said Carla Hadad, a 10-year-old Jish girl who frequently waved her arms to answer questions in Aramaic from school teacher Mona Issa during a recent lesson.

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

Aramaic nearly disappeared from the Middle East centuries ago, but it was the region's dominant language at the time of Christ.

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