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Arameans in Israel (Arabic: آراميون‎, Hebrew: ארמים‎, Aramaic: ܐܪ̈ܡܝܐ‎) are an Arabic-speaking Christian minority residing in Israel who identify as Arameans, Syriac-Arameans or Syriacs. They are desceded from a Northwest Semitic people who originated in what is now western, southern and central Syria region (Biblical Aram) during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age.[2][3]

Arameans in Israel
Sūryōyĕ, Sūrayĕ, Ōrōmōyĕ
Flag of the Syriac-Aramaic People.svg
Total population
13,000 (Estimated as eligible to register as Arameans in 2016)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Syriac Christianity (Maronite Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church)
Related ethnic groups
Maronites in Israel, Assyrians in Israel

Some Syriac Christians in the Middle East espouse an Aramean ethnic identity and a minority in Syria still speak a Western Aramaic language, although the Eastern Aramaic languages are far more widely spoken. Most of the Aramaeans in Israel are Maronites.[4] Until 2014, self-identified Arameans in Israel used to be registered as ethnic Arabs or without ethnic identity. 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.[6][7]

According to a literal chronology of the Bible as written in the Book of Judges, much of the Land of Israel came under Aramean rule for eight years in the early 13th century BC, 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.

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

Many Syriac Christians in Israel descend from refugees fleeing the Assyrian genocide in 1915. Many found refuge in what was known as the "Syriac Quarter" in Bethlehem.[2] Today many live within the city of Jerusalem where they also used to have their own quarter known as the ”Syriac Quarter” squeezed between the Armenian and Jewish Quarters at the Old City’s southern end.


Arameans are predominantly Christians of the East and West Syriac Rite. The majority of Arameans in Israel are adherents of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Syriac Maronite Church.

Syriac Catholic ChurchEdit

The Syriac Catholic Church has a Patriarchal Exarchate formed in 1892 and is based out of the Church of Saint Thomas in Jerusalem. As of 2015, there are 3 parishes in Israel with an estimated 3,000 adherents.

Chaldean Catholic ChurchEdit

Since 1903, the Chaldean Catholic Church has been represented in Jerusalem by a non-resident patriarchal vicar. In 1997, the Chaldean Catholic Church established the Territory Dependent on the Patriarch which was previously governed as the Patriarchal Vicariate of Jerusalem within the Patriarch's own archeparchy. [3]

Syriac Orthodox ChurchEdit

The Syriac Orthodox Church is the largest Aramean church in Israel and in general, covered by the Archbishopric of Israel, Palestine and Jordan under the spiritual guidance and direction of Archbishop Gabriel Dahho.

The most notable monastery in Israel is the Monastery of Saint Mark in Jerusalem. The Syriac Orthodox Church also has sharing rights to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and minor rights to the Tomb of the Virgin Mary where they possess an altar on the western side of the holy site.

Recognition in IsraelEdit

In September 2014, Ministry of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar instructed the PIBA to recognize Arameans as an ethnicity separate from Israeli Arabs.[5][8] Under the Ministry of the Interior's guidance, people born into Arabic-speaking Christian families or clans who have either Aramaic or Maronite cultural heritage within their family are eligible to register as Arameans. About 200 Christian families were thought to be eligible prior to this decision.[9] According to an August 9, 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), 500 Syriac Catholics, and also 1,500 Aramean members of the Syriac Orthodox Church (which prior to that were registered as "Assyrians")[10]

The first person to receive the "Aramean" ethnic status in Israel was 2 year old Yaakov Halul in Jish on October 20, 2014.[11] In July 2016, an article in the Ha'aretz estimated the number of Israeli Christians eligible to register as Arameans in Israel to be 13,000.[12]


The recognition of the Aramean ethnicity caused mixed reactions among Israeli minorities, the Christian community, and among the general Arab Israeli population.

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.[13] Representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem officially denounced the move.[13]

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.[14] 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".[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ "Aramaic Maronite Center". Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  5. ^ a b Yalon, Yori (17 September 2014). "'Aramean' officially recognized as nationality in Israel". Israel Hayom. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ Neither Arab nor Jew: Israel's unheard minorities speak up, Haaretz
  9. ^ Lis, Jonathan (17 September 2014). "Israel recognizes Aramean minority in Israel as separate nationality". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  10. ^ [6]
  11. ^ Newman, Marissa (21 October 2014). "In first, Israeli Christian child registers as Aramean". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  12. ^ [7]
  13. ^ a b Cohen, Ariel (28 September 2014). "Israeli Greek Orthodox Church denounces Aramaic Christian nationality". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  14. ^ [8]
  15. ^ [9]