In the Syrian desert, the language of Jesus lives on
Published: July 29, 2008
MAALOULA, Syria (CNS) -- Aramaic, the language of Jesus that flourished in villages thousands of years ago, is being kept alive in the Syrian desert, about an hour's drive from Damascus. Today, Aramaic is spoken in Maaloula, an ancient mountainous town with two historic monasteries, Catholic and Orthodox, both built into the cliffs. Georgette Halabi, a tour guide at St. Serge Melkite Catholic convent in Maaloula, grew up speaking Aramaic. "I don't write it," she said. "But I want to learn." Local residents' Arabic education has never offered formal instruction in written Aramaic, but they have managed to pass down the spoken language from one generation to the next -- a point of pride for Maaloulans, who are quick to note that they speak "the mother of Semitic languages." Aramaic also is spoken in two other towns in the area -- Jabaadeen and Serkha -- but with its historic churches and monasteries, Maaloula is the center of Aramaic culture.
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