ISRAEL: JERUSALEM: SYRIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ARAMAIC LANGUAGE
An ancient Christian community in Jerusalem is preparing to celebrate Christmas in a language that hasn't changed since the time of Christ.
Members of the Syrian Orthodox Church are trying to keep alive the Christian tradition of the Apostles by speaking the original language of Jesus - Aramaic.
But those who come to worship there and the tradition are dying out.
The Syrian Orthodox church holds to a two thousand year-old heritage born with the Christian faith, including a liturgy in Aramaic.
But its community is dwindling, its school closed in 1965 because of declining enrollment.
In the 1950's nearly 80 baptisms took place each month, today less than 12 are baptised a year.
Church leaders claim that it was their faith which founded Christianity and Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
"This convent is the symbol of the first church of Christianity in
the world. From this place after the Pentecost the disciples left
Jerusalem to the world. Everyone to his holy place according to the
chosen of the Pentecost to establish the church and publish the
gospel. Now here some of our people speak Aramaic who is their mother tongue."
SUPER CAPTION: Archbishop Dionesius Betnan Jejawi, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch
One of the most essential elements which distinguishes the Syrian Orthodox from many other such communities is its common use of the ancient language.
The church still upholds this tradition, holding its services in Aramaic, printing prayer books in Aramaic and holding mass using Aramaic.
Certain priests specialise in writing the language which is based on the Semitic alphabet.
They still use old parchment and calligraphy methods.
At the Mary Magdalena Church near the Old City of Jerusalem the numbers attending mass is on the decline.
Aramaic Priests are becoming more and more concerned that their historical existence will be lost heading into the new millennium.
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