By Yehonatan Valtser
Representatives from Assyrian communities around the world gathered in Jerusalem on Sunday evening to attend a conference hosted by the Committee for the Resurrection of the Aramaic Language and the Tikkun Movement highlighting the survival of the ancient language, which was once spoken throughout the Middle East.
Juliana Taimoorazy of Chicago and Hermis Shaheen from Sydney participated in a discussion about the meaning of the Aramaic language to the Jewish people and the Assyrian people.
Taimoorazy, who hails originally from Iran, shared how the Aramaic language and Assyrian culture made her feel close to the Jewish people and recounted that when she was a child, she tried to avoid stepping on American and Israeli flags painted on the floor of the school she attended.
“Aside from language, we have so many other similarities. Culturally, and historically… And it’s a blessing that you have this land, and I hope that soon we will make Aliya to Nineveh,” she said, relating to the prominent ancient Assyrian city, which is located near Mosul in the north of modern-day Iraq.
The ancient Semitic Aramaic language once dominated the Middle East, and today is spoken by only a few and read by those who study the Talmud, which is written in pseudo-Aramaic.
The conference was also attended by Amir Halul, a representative of the Christian Aramaic community in Israel, who read several verses of Psalms in their Aramaic translation.
The Aramaic community is one of the Christian denominations in the Middle East, and in September 2014, Israel announced that its residents can register as members of the Aramaic nationality if they wish to do so.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Interior, some 115,000, about 85% of the Arab Christian population in Israel is entitled to change their national registration to that of an Aramaic.
At the conclusion of the conference, Shaheen, originally from Iraq, gave Dr. Jacob Maoz, chairman of the Committee for the Resurrection of the Aramaic Language, a certificate signifying the connection between the Jewish people and the Assyrian people.
The Committee for the Resurrection of the Aramaic Language was founded by Maoz, a member of a family that immigrated from the Aram Naharayim area in Iraq. The Committee promotes the study and teaching of the Aramaic language in Israel and works to make it available to the public. The Committee also formulated a strategic plan based on collaborations with other international bodies.
The Tikkun Movement defines itself as a movement for the revitalization of Israeli society and culture and promotes a cultural discourse based on traditional Israeli-Judaism. It was founded in 2012 and is currently headed by Meir Buzaglo.