Arameans in Israel
Total population
15,000[1][failed verification][2]
Regions with significant populations
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jericho, Jish, Kafr Bir'im
Syriac Christianity (Maronite Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church)
Related ethnic groups
Maronites in Israel, Assyrians in Israel

Arameans in Israel are a Christian minority residing in Israel. They claim descent from the Arameans, an ancient Semitic-speaking people in the Middle East in the 1st millennium BC.

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 more widely spoken. Most of the Arameans in Israel are part of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Maronite Church.[3] Until 2014, self-identified Arameans in Israel were registered as ethnic Arabs or without ethnic identity. 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.[4]

In October 2019, the Israeli Christian Aramaic Organization estimated at 15,000 the number of Israeli citizens who are eligible to obtain Aramean affiliation.[2] As of 2017, 16 people are registered as Aramean.[1]



Syriac Orthodox monastery of Saint Mark, Jerusalem

Abraham, the father of Western monotheism, was believed to be of Aramean ancestry. The Jews and Christians regard him as the Patriarch of the Jewish people.[5][6][7] Aramean presence in Israel goes back to 1100 BCE, when much of Israel came under Aramean rule for eight years according to the Biblical Book of Judges, until Othniel defeated the forces led by Chushan-Rishathaim, the King of Aram-Naharaim.[8]

4th-18th century

After the Arameans converted to Syriac Christianity they became involved in the expansion of Christianity troughout the Middle-East, which resulted in various Syriac monasteries and churches being build especially in Jerusalem and Bethlehem of whom the Monastery of Saint Mark, Jerusalem among the oldest. According to a 6th-century inscription Inscription at the Monastery of St Mark's in Jerusalem found during a restoration in 1940, the church is on the ancient site of the house of Mary, mother of St. Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12) and the place of the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples. Some Christians believe that the Last Supper was held at the nearby Cenacle on Mount Zion.[9]

Around 1831 large numbers of Syriac Christians started to emigrate to Israel as pilgrims and settled there, mostly originating from the Tur Abdin region.[10] During the Seyfo: the genocide on Syriac Christians in the Ottoman Empire a large mass emigration occurred from Tur-Abdin. They mainly settled in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and in smaller numbers in Jericho and Nazareth. In Bethlehem they also constructed the Virgin Mary church between 1922 and 1928 in the Syriac Quarter.

Israeli period


After the advent of Zionism and Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, hundreds of Syriac Christians were expelled and their homes and shops given over to Jewish settlers. Thousands of Arameans fled to Jordan or the West in the ensuing chaos. Estimates that 65 percent of the Syriac Christian population left for good. Today, the Syriac Quarter area is part of the Armenian and Jewish Quarter - which expanded to several times its original size through the dispossession of 6,000 non-Jewish residents.[11]


The first person to receive the "Aramean" ethnic status in Israel was 2 year old Yaakov Halul in Jish on October 20, 2014.[12] 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.[13] In October 2019, the Israeli Christian Aramaic Organization estimated the number of Israeli citizens, who are eligible to obtain Aramean affiliation at 15,000.[2]

Recognition in Israel

Legal recognition

In September 2014, Ministry of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar instructed the PIBA to recognise Arameans as an ethnicity separate from Israeli Arabs.[4][14] Under the Ministry of the Interior's guidance, people born into 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.[15] 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 regulation, including 10,000 Maronites (which included 2,000 former SLA members) and 500 Syriac Catholics.[16]

The first person to receive the "Aramean" ethnic status in Israel was 2 year old Yaakov Halul in Jish on October 20, 2014.[12]

In 2019, an Israeli court ruled that Aramean minorities could choose a Jewish or Arab education, rather than requiring children with Aramean identity to be automatically enrolled in Arabic-language schools.[2]


The recognition of the Aramean ethnicity caused mixed reactions among Israeli minorities, the Christian community, and among the general Arab Israeli population. Representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem denounced the move.[17]

Mordechai Kedar advocates the recognition of the Aramean identity and calls 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.[18] One of the supporters of the recognition of the Aramean identity is Gabriel Naddaf, who is a priest to the Greek Orthodox Christians in Israel. He advocated on behalf of his Aramean followers and thanked the Interior Ministry's decision as a "historic move".[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b c d [1]
  3. ^ "Aramaic Maronite Center". Archived from the original on 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  4. ^ a b Yalon, Yori (17 September 2014). "'Aramean' officially recognized as nationality in Israel". Israel Hayom. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  5. ^ My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as a nomad. But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous. Deuteronomy 26:5
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Boling, Robert G., revised by Richard D. Nelson, Harper Collins Study Bible: The Book of Judges
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b Newman, Marissa (21 October 2014). "In first, Israeli Christian child registers as Aramean". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  13. ^ "הבעיה האמיתית של ספר האזרחות החדש".
  14. ^ Aderet, Ofer (September 9, 2018). "Neither Arab nor Jew: Israel's Unheard Minorities Speak Up After the Nation-state Law". Haaretz.
  15. ^ Lis, Jonathan (17 September 2014). "Israel recognises Aramean minority in Israel as separate nationality". Haaretz. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ Cohen, Ariel (28 September 2014). "Israeli Greek Orthodox Church denounces Aramaic Christian nationality". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  18. ^ "Is There Really an Aramean Nation?". Israel National News.
  19. ^ "New Nationality for Christians: Aramaean". Israel National News.