Jubb’adin in Qalamoun: Interview

by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi  • 

The village of Jubb’adin in the Qalamoun area in western Syria near the border with Lebanon stands out for being one of the last places in which Western Neo-Aramaic is spoken. This language is the closest living relative of the language that Jesus would have spoken. In contrast, most other Neo-Aramaic languages are of the Eastern Neo-Aramaic type.

Jubb’adin is also notable for the fact that the locality stood with the Syrian government during the Syrian civil war. Recently I interviewed a resident of Jubb’adin about the history of the village (including the time of the civil war) and the village’s current status.

The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.

Q: First can you tell me a little about Jubb’adin generally?

A: Jubb’adin is composed of two parts: Jubb, ‘adin. The people of ‘Ad [a people mentioned in the Qur’an] settled in it. There is in it a spring of water at the entrance to the locality that is more than a hundred years old and still functions till this moment. The locality is distinguished by an elevation that is more than 1600m above sea level. And there are in it a number of churches and many ruins. And it is distinguished by its unique reddish colour. And the number of its inhabitants currently varies between 8000 and 10000. Among its families: Amoush, Aloush, al-Tawil, Hassoun and Abada.

Q: Most of the inhabitants are Christians or Muslims?

A: All of the inhabitants are Muslims. The churches are among the ruins buried under the dwellings.

Q: And they speak Arabic and Aramaic?

A: Of course, and in it is a museum. And in it was held the festival of Akitu Brikha for this year: that is, the Syriac New Year, on the first day of April.

Q: During the events [civil war] in Syria, Jubb’adin never fell out of the control of the Syrian government, right?

A: It was exposed like other places to attempts of destruction but it has remained with the Syrian state.

Q: How many martyrs has the locality offered in defence of Syria during the events?

A: It has offered around 75 martyrs, and that is a big number with respect to the number of inhabitants. I am not sure of the number but it is in these limits approximately.

Jubb’adin has a high number of ‘martyrs’ from the war relative to its population. The graphic above includes names and photos of some of them.

Q: And this number includes civilians and military personnel right?

A: The number of civilian [martyrs] is small in comparison with the number of military personnel martyrs

Q: And how is the current situation in the locality? Is there national grid electricity all hours of the day approximately? Is water available always?

A: Currently the situation is secure in the locality and its environs. The electricity is the same as the situation of all regions in these days of Ramadan: almost being semi-available with rationing hours that do not exceed two hours per day. As for water, it [Jubb’adin] is distinguished by the purest water in the Qalamoun area with its impurities pretty much zero. And it is available when electricity is available.

Q: So it is not necessary for you to buy water from tankers?

A: The tankers only operate when the electricity is cut off for a long time which results in the propellers ceasing to pump water for the locality.

Q: And there is not much destruction in the village because of the events?

A: The situation is not devoid of some destruction but in sum the locality is sound at a rate of 98%.

Q: And the locality [municipal] office’s services are functioning?

A: The work of the locality office did not cease even when the insurgents were present in it.

Q: Insurgents were present in the locality once?

A: Yes the insurgents entered it and tried to seize it but they were resisted by the people with the help of the Syrian Arab Army.

Q: The number of inhabitants currently is composed of the original inhabitants only? Or there are IDPs from other areas in the locality as well?

A: Most of the inhabitants of the villages that the insurgents seized were displaced to it in addition to inhabitants from Homs and al-Ghouta and currently not many of them have remained because of the return of security to their towns and villages.

Q: Are there any development projects in the locality currently?

A: Currently there are no development projects, but the locality has a hospital that was built entirely at the expense of the people of the locality but it needs equipment and machines to function. Even the bakery was built at the expense of the people with its equipment. There is also a hall for mourning.

Q: When was the building of the bakery completed?

A: The bakery was demolished in 2016 and rebuilt with new equipment purchased, all of it at the expense of the people. And there is a project to establish a Shari’i school but it has not yet been prepared.

Q: The bakery is affiliated with the Syrian state right?

A: Affiliated with the charitable association.

Q: Has the gas and oil crisis on account of U.S. sanctions impacted life in the locality?

A: It has not had a great impact because of the presence of people from the locality who have worked to reduce its pressure. But it [Jubb’adin] suffered in the winter because of the sharp deficiency in diesel fuel [mazut oil] that the village relies on in a foundational sense.

Q: But also you rely on the wood for heating in winter right?

A: Wood is unavailable because the insurgents cut the trees. Jubb’adin’s climate is very cold.

Q: Lastly, I would like to ask: how has the Syrian government helped you in preserving the Aramaic language?

A: The Arabic language is taught to the children since their birth, while the Arabic language is mostly learnt in the schools.