UPDATE 6 pm Israel time Monday:
At 3:30 pm, there were reports of skirmishes along the Gaza border between IDF forces and Palestinian terrorists who fired mortars into Israel.
Do you remember yesterday’s blog about how the Israeli media does nothing but mouth the leftist line in all of its biased reportage? That blog referred to the Saturday incident near Yizhar where the media–with the encouragement of a video produced by the so-called “human rights” organization B’Tselim—reported that Jewish community members had started fires, brave Palestinians had tried to extinguish the fires, and a Jewish community member had shot a Palestinian in the stomach for no reason.
Well guess what? Video surfaced this morning that it was the Palestinians who started the fires, Jewish community members who tried to extinguish the fires, and the Palestinian who was shot was in the process of assaulting people with a large knife. It further shows that the B’Tselem video had been edited to distort what happened and to take out the knife attack.
But whatever the new video shows is too late–the damage has been done–and Israel’s image has once again been falsely sullied around the world by the Israeli media working in collusion with the international media.
You, dear reader, have probably never heard of Jish, a small Israeli Arab town with a population of about 3000 on the northeastern slopes of Mt. Meron, 13 km north of Tzfat. Jish has had a storied history with its two synagogues, its ornate burial caves, and its mausoleum. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Joel was buried in Jish as were two Jewish sages of the early 1st century, Shmaya and Abatalion, and Christian tradition holds that the parents of Paul were from the town.
The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus wrote that Jish was the last city in the Galilee region to fall to the Romans in the first Jewish war (66-73 CE)–but it remained a large Jewish village (known as Gush Halav) until as late at the 15th century.
Since that time, the population of Jish has changed repeatedly both as a result of natural factors (an 1837 earthquake destroyed the city) and strife–with Jews, Christians, and Muslims coming and going. Today, the population is 55% Maronite Christian, 35% Greek Orthodox, and 10% Muslim.
The demography of the town is interesting enough, but what is unique about the town is language. Though everyone is the town speaks Hebrew and Arabic, the older Maronites in Jish still speak Syriac Aramaic–the ancient Semitic language that belongs to the same family as Hebrew.
Aramaic was the language of the parts of the Tannach (such as passages in the books of Daniel and Ezra), but it is most commonly identified as being the language spoken in Samaria and Judea at the time of Jesus. Today all Maronite religious services are still chanted in Aramaic; however, most of the young people of Jish don’t understand what they are saying.
In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Education approved a program to begin teaching Aramaic in Jish through the eighth grade. Today, more than 80 children in grades one through 5 are studying Aramaic two hours a week. This effort to revive Aramaic is being duplicated in a private Judean school in Beit Jala. There, at the Mar Afram school operated by the Syrian Orthodox Church, priests are teaching Aramaic to 320 students–descendants from Turkish Aramaic-speaking refugees who arrived in the area in the 1920s.
Oddly, both communities are also getting an Aramaic boost from one of the largest Aramaic speaking communities in the world–located in Sweden. It estimated that there are between 30,000 and 80,000 Aramaic speakers who publish their own newspaper and even have their own soccer team, Syrianska FC. How does this help the residents of Jish and Beit Jala? Because the Swedish community also operates a satellite TV station that can now be seen in Israel.
When you stop and think about it, this attempt to revive Aramaic is remarkable and a testament to the enduring efforts of the Maronites to remain tied to their roots. And it is a testament to Israel’s ongoing attempt to support its religious and ethnic minorities.
A 10 year old Jish girl, Carla Hadd, summed up her motivation like this: “We want to speak the language that Jesus spoke. We used to speak it a long time ago.”
Several days ago, your humble servant began to recognize those of you who support Israel by donating to this website. In the coming days, I will include more information about how you can do this.