Maronite Christians Seek To Revive Aramaic Language

Ancient Israeli Minority Hopes To Win Communal Recognition

By Ksenia Svetlova

Published October 12, 2012, issue of October 19, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

Meanwhile, on a parallel track, Aram has been seeking support from Israeli political leaders in preparation for its moment before the Supreme Court. Some, including Avigdor Lieberman, leader of right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, the third-largest faction in Israel’s parliament, have responded positively.

But even in Jish, a small village of some 3,000 inhabitants that is ground zero for the effort, some residents complain privately that Aram’s battle for self-identity could weaken the Palestinian cause. One resident, who asked to be identified as only “Rami,” said that over decades of living in Israel under Jewish rule, Muslims and Christians in the region had become one Palestinian nation. Aram, he said, is promoting a split that serves Israel and harms the Palestinians. He requested anonymity, he said, to avoid generating a family dispute or feud of the sort that is easy to spark in a small place like Jish.

More important, Deacon Soubhi Makhoul, administrator of the Maronite Exarchate in Jerusalem, told the Forward that the Maronite church does not support Aram’s cause.

“I believe that this is a political issue,” he said. “Moreover, there might be specific Israeli political circles that stand behind this attempt. The Maronites are Arabs, we are part of the Arab world. And although it’s important to revive our language and maintain our heritage, the church is very outspoken against the campaign of these people.”

Khalloul, an army officer who served in elite forces in the IDF, dismisses such criticism. He cites Zionist history in doing so. “It’s just like the Jews who faced opposition from the Haredim when Israel was established,” he said, referring to the angry opposition ultra-Orthodox Jews marshaled against Ben-Yehuda’s effort to revive Hebrew as a modern, secular language. “Those who oppose our efforts to revive our language and identity are Maronites in name only. They do not really engage in the life of our community.”

Khalloul asserted that Aram represents not just members of its association, but also other Christian minority groups in Israel that share its ideology. “We do not rely on the [Maronite] church’s support in our struggle,” he said.

Ironically, even as he fends off charges of helping the Zionists divide and conquer, Khalloul is at one with other residents of Jish in demanding redress from Israel on a crime as old as the State of Israel itself, one that refuses to be forgotten or forgiven. Most of the Maronite families that live today in Jish are not from there. In “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War,” an authoritative account of the military campaign to establish Israel as a state, Israeli historian Benny Morris relates that Israeli forces murdered a number of prisoners of war and local residents in Jish, sending its native residents fleeing — most to Lebanon, where they became refugees.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.