In two Holy Land villages—and, randomly, Sweden—efforts are being made to revive Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke that has been almost dead for centuries. The Palestinian village of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, and the Arab-Israeli village of Jish, in the Galilean hills where Jesus taught, were both inspired by Sweden. That country is home to as many as 80,000 Aramaic speakers living in immigrant communities descended from the Middle East, and boasts an Aramaic newspaper, Aramaic pamphlets, Aramaic children's books, an Aramaic TV station, and even an Aramaic soccer team.
When Maronites and Syrian Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land heard the TV station, they were inspired to revive Aramaic in their own Christian communities, the AP reports. School children learn "Syriac," the dialect spoken by their ancestors, which is close to the Galilean dialect Jesus would have spoken. "They probably would have understood each other," says one expert. Jish Elementary School is the only Israeli public school teaching the language, a voluntary subject studied by around 80 children. In Beit Jala's Mar Afram school, 320 students study Aramaic.