Photo Credit: Yaakov Naumi / Flash 90
Sha'di Halul, head of the Aramaic Maronite Heritage Center, in Gush Halav in northern Israel, on August 9, 2013. Aramaic is now recognized as a nationality in Israel.

Lost in the uproar over the proposed Nationality Bill has been the historic recognition of Arameans as a separate nationality in Israel. Israel is the first country in the world to recognize the Arameans.

Israel’s historic recognition has empowered and emboldened Arameans to seek better treatment in other countries they live in.

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Tomorrow (Wednesday November 26), the World Council of Arameans (WCA) will be addressing the Seventh Session of the Forum on Minority Issues at the United Nations in Geneva. Shadi Halul, an Aramean from Gush Halav in the Galilee, will be traveling to Geneva in order to address the assembly. His two year old child was the first person to be registered under the new identity in Israel, one month ago. Halul was invited by the WCA.

Part of the statement of the WCA will read as follows: “We, Aramean Christian Israelis, want all the nations of the world to see the historic democratic move of Israel in recognizing the nationality of ‘Aramean’ within the Christian citizens of the Jewish and democratic Israel. We look specifically to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon to recognize the Aramean people in their countries, to protect the minority in their historic homelands, and their basic democratic rights, and preserve their culture, language, and history.”

Johnny Messo, the President of the World Council of Arameans, emphasized “We greatly commend Israel for being the first state in the world to recognize our people in keeping with international law. This fantastic news has had a major impact on the global Aramean population. It encourages us to continue our legal struggle for recognition by our home countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.”

“The only safe haven for our people in the entire region is Israel,” Jahn Zaknoun, spokesperson of the Christian Aramaic Society in Israel told Tazpit News Agency. “It is the only place we are demographically growing in the entire region. In 1948 there were between 50,000 and 70,000 Arameans in the country, and today there are 130,000 Arameans.”

The Arameans, while a minority in Israel, are thankful for the democratic nature of the country, and seek to be valued members of the society. “We want our people to be a useful and productive part of the country, to serve in the army, as anyone who loves this country as it is would do,” Zaknoun added. “Israel is the only country in the region where everyone who comes here is integrated into society. Anyone who cherishes freedom, of life and of speech, loves Israel.”

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