Saturday, July 01, 2017

Ancient Ethiopic is alive in Israel

ETHIOPIC WATCH: Israel's Ethiopian Jews keep ancient language alive in prayer (Mordechai Goldman, Al-Monitor).
On June 7, another group of about 70 Falash Mura (people of Jewish origin) immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. Their arrival revived discussions of the preservation of Ethiopian Jewry's ancient traditions, particularly their language, Ge'ez.

Ge'ez is an ancient Semitic language with its own unique alphabet. It served as the national language of the Ethiopian Empire until about one thousand years ago. It is survived by its close relatives, the contemporary Semitic languages of Ethiopia: Tigre, Tigrinya and Amharic. With the penetration and growth of Amharic, Ge'ez was increasingly marginalized. Now, it is only used as the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Church, the Eritrean Church and the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Ge'ez is best known, at least in my circles, as the only language in which the full text of 1 Enoch survives. Some recent past PaleoJudaica posts about Ge'ez and Ge'ez literature are here, here, here, here, and here.

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