The subset of Middle Eastern Christians who define themselves as “Aramaic” will now be able to register as belonging to that nationality in legal documents in Israel, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced on Wednesday, Sept. 17.
The Interior Ministry received a number of requests from Israeli Christians who sought recognition as Aramaic. Those who seek to register as such must be able to prove several factors. They must be able to prove that they come from the Middle East, that they are conversant in the language and a member of one of the following Christian denominations: Maronite, Orthodox Aramaic, Syriac Catholic, Greek Orthodox or Greek Catholic.
The Aramean people do not consider themselves to be either Arabs or Palestinians. They are part of Israel’s Christian community, which constitute approximately two percent of Israel’s population.
The petitioning (and now successful) Arameans were represented by Yael Katz Mastbaum. One of the best known Israel Arameans is Sha’di Halul, who served in the Israeli Defense Force and runs Aramean camps for children so they will know about their heritage.
For American Jews, Aramaic is familiar as the language of certain Jewish texts, including some parts of the Bible, such as Genesis 31:47 (two words); Jeremiah 10:11; Daniel 2:4–7:28; and Ezra 4:8–6:8; and 7:12–26.
The Arameans are believed to have originated in the area of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent, in what is now Syria and Iraq. Most now live in the Galilee, Nazareth and Haifa.