Maalula is the last place where they still speak Aramaic as that Christ fellow would've spoken it two thousand years ago, and only about two thousand people still speak it fluently.
The modern world is encroaching upon the village at a rapid pace, and no longer can Maalula be considered remote. A paved highway whisks commuters to Damascus in 45 minutes. Satellite dishes beam programs from around the world – none of them in Aramaic – into local living rooms.
Job opportunities are scarce, and the younger generation is moving away, to the cities and overseas, taking with them what may turn out to be the last memories of this ancient language.
Within a few decades at most, Maalulans believe, Aramaic will have passed into history.
"In 10 or 20 years, it will be dead. The children don't speak it anymore, and all the young people are moving to Damascus," said Maria Hadi, 30, who grew up speaking Aramaic but moved to the city to attend high school and has forgotten the language of her childhood.
Thanks, incidentally, to Bill Howell, via whom I discovered this article and decided to share it here.