The Jewish-Roman historian Josephus wrote that Jish was the last city in the Galilee region to fall to the Romans in the first Jewish war (66-73 CE)–but it remained a large Jewish village (known as Gush Halav) until as late at the 15th century.
Since that time, the population of Jish has changed repeatedly both as a result of natural factors (an 1837 earthquake destroyed the city) and strife–with Jews, Christians, and Muslims coming and going. Today, the population is 55% Maronite Christian, 35% Greek Orthodox, and 10% Muslim.
The demography of the town is interesting enough, but what is unique about the town is language. Though everyone is the town speaks Hebrew and Arabic, the older Maronites in Jish still speak Syriac Aramaic–the ancient Semitic language that belongs to the same family as Hebrew.
Aramaic was the language of the parts of the Tannach (such as passages in the books of Daniel and Ezra), but it is most commonly identified as being the language spoken in Samaria and Judea at the time of Jesus.
Today all Maronite religious services are still chanted in Aramaic; however, most of the young people of Jish don’t understand what they are saying.
- The growth and decline of the Aramaic language (kansascity.com)
- The growth and decline of the Aramaic language (nzherald.co.nz)
- Native Aramaic speakers caught up in Syrian war (timesofisrael.com)
- The growth and decline of the Aramaic language (sacbee.com)