Preserving The Language Of Jesus

For thousands of years, a tiny Syrian village has kept a well-guarded treasure: the language of Jesus. Tucked away in the Qalamoun Mountains, just north of Damascus, Syria, is Malula - one of the last places on earth where Aramaic is still spoken.

Aramaic was a thriving language during the time of Jesus and his disciples. Many of the gospels were written in the Semitic language, along with sections of the Talmud and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

People who come to Malula take in a piece of history and hear in its purest tones the 3,000-year-old language closely related to Hebrew. For the religious here, keeping Aramaic alive is nothing less than a calling.

"Of course we are interested to maintain this language, because at the end, this is the language of Jesus Christ," says Father Toufic Eid of St. Sergius Church.

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The locals and the Syrian government are taking conservation of this national treasure very seriously. They have opened a special school where students from 5 to 50 brush up on their Aramaic, and, for the first time in their history, learn to write this traditionally oral language.

It's a sense of pride for the village children.

"They want to know their grandfathers' language, and speaking it and writing," says student Yousef Sanjar.

For centuries Malula's geographic isolation protected it from invasion, warding off the influx of Arabic and other languages.

For a time, Aramaic was the global language of trade, commerce and communication reaching as far east as China. Then the advent of modern technology began to chip away at Aramaic's existence.

But somehow, the 5,000 residents continue to tell their stories in their special language. It's a never-ending union between Malulans and Aramaic - a marriage sure to preserve the language of Jesus.

  • CBSNews

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