Inside Report (7)

Will 20th-century technology quash the language used by Christ Jesus?

Aramaic was one one of the most important in the Semitic family, used throughout the Mideast during Persian and early Christian eras as the common idiom of commerce and politics. By one estimate there are only three isolated villages in the craggy mountains of western Syria where Aramaic is spoken - by 4 ,000 residents. Attempts to rekindle interest in the language are being thwarted by that most 20th century of vehicles, the bus. This cheap form of public transportation is carrying men into higher-paying jobs in the Arabic-speaking Syrian heartland. There are few young men in the villages anymore, only the old to tend to the vineyards and orchards.

The Syrian government has also affected the Aramaic-speakers. Schools in Maalula (one of the towns) now teach Arabic. And there is little local interest in the Christian enclave. Syria is now 85 percent Muslim and 99 percent Arabic-speaking.m

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