Arameans in Israel

Arameans in Israel
Total population
13,000 (2014)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Syriac Christianity

Arameans in Israel (Aramaic: ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ, ארמיא; ʼaramáyé) are persons residing in Israel who identify as Arameans (or Aramaeans), a Northwest Semitic people who originated in what is now present-day western, southern and central Syria region (Biblical Aram) during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age.[2][3]

Some Syriac Christians in the Middle East (particularly in Syria and Israel) still espouse an Aramean ethnic identity to this day and a minority still speak various Aramaic dialects or languages. Most of the self-identified Aramaeans in Israel are of Maronite congregation. The Maronite residents of Jish, a subset of Maronites in Israel, relate to themselves as Aramean Christian Maronite peoples.[4] Until 2014, self-identified Arameans in Israel used to be registered as ethnic Arabs. However, since September 2014, Christian families or clans who can speak Aramaic and/or have an Aramaic family tradition are eligible to register as ethnic Arameans in Israel.[5]


Aramaean people originated in what is present-day western, southern and central Syria (Biblical Aram) during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age.[2][3]

Large groups migrated to Babylonia in southern Mesopotamia during the 11th and 10th centuries BC, where they established small semi-independent Aramaic kingdoms. In the Levant and in Mesopotamia conquered Aramean populations were forcibly deported throughout the Babylonian Empire e.g. under the rule of the 8th-century Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III.

In the Hebrew Bible

In the early 13th century BC (according to a literal chronology of the Bible), much of the Land of Israel came under Aramean rule for eight years, as written in the Book of Judges, until Othniel defeated the forces led by Chushan-Rishathaim, the King of Aram-Naharaim. Other entities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible include Aram Damascus and Aram Rehob.

Recognition of the Aramean ethnicity

In September 2014, Ministry of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar instructed the PIBA to recognize Arameans as an ethnicity separate from Israeli Arabs. Under the Ministry of the Interior's guidance, people born into Christian families or clans who can speak Aramaic and have Aramaic cultural heritage within their family are eligible to register as Arameans. About 200 Christian families were thought to be eligible prior to this decision.[6] According to a 09.08.2013 Israel Hayom article, at that time an estimated 10,500 persons were eligible to receive Aramean ethnic status according to the new regulations, including 10,000 Maronites (which included 2,000 former SLA members), and 500 Catholics, while 1,500 Christian Orthodox Arameans were already officially registered as "Assyrians".[7]

The first person to receive the "Aramean" ethnic status in Israel was 2 year old Yaakov Halul in Jish on October 20, 2014.[8] In July 2016, it was published by Ha'aretz that the number of Israeli Christians, eligible to register as Arameans is 13,000.[9]


The recognition of the Aramean ethnicity caused mixed reactions among Israeli minorities, the Christian community, and Palestinians. While some celebrated the success of their long legal struggle to be recognized as a non-Arab ethnic minority, other members of the Arab community in Israel denounced it as an attempt to divide Arab Christians.[10] Representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate officially denounced the move.[10] Many in Israeli academia advocate the recognition of the Aramean identity and have called on the government of Israel to promote the awareness regarding this issue on the basis of the international principle of ethnic self-determination as espoused by Wilson's 14 points.[11] One of the staunchest supporters of the recognition of the Aramean identity is Father Gabriel Naddaf, who is one of the leaders of the Christians in Israel. He advocated on behalf of his Aramean followers and thanked the Interior Ministry's decision as a "historic move".[12]

See also


  1. 1 2
  2. 1 2
  3. "Aramaic Maronite Center". Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  4. Yalon, Yori (17 September 2014). "'Aramean' officially recognized as nationality in Israel". Israel Hayom. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  5. Lis, Jonathan (17 September 2014). "Israel recognizes Aramean minority in Israel as separate nationality". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  6. Newman, Marissa (21 October 2014). "In first, Israeli Christian child registers as Aramean". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. 1 2 Cohen, Ariel (28 September 2014). "Israeli Greek Orthodox Church denounces Aramaic Christian nationality". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
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