Shlama Akhi Joe,
You asked me the following question in an email:
I was listening to a Jewish Rabbi teach a little while ago and he said that
it is an error to believe that our modern square letters came from Syria.
He said that the two alphabets that have been used by Israel since creation
Tsav Ivrit and
and that "Tsav Asshuri" should be translated "Letters of Certification" not
"Syrian Letters". He mentioned that Syrians were using the estrangela
farther back than the square letters. "Tsav Ashuri" could be translated
either way, but the idea it means "Syrian Letters" has led people to think
Israel got these letters from Aramaic.
He said that "Letters of Certification" means that these square letters have
a shape that certifies their meaning.
Here is a quote from Dr. Menahem Mansoor, a Sephardic Jew, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic Studies, University of Wisconsin, in Madison.
He earned his Ph.D. from Trinity College in Dublin.
The quote is from the book titled: Biblical Hebrew - Step by Step, Volume 1, 2nd Edition, ISBN: 0-8010-6041-9.
Lesson One (Page 5)
During the biblical period the language spoken by the Israelites was called in the Bible the "Language of Canaan." (See Isaiah 19:18.) It is very similiar to the languages of the other Canaanite-speaking nations (Moabite, Phoenician, Ugaritic.)
Hebrew was a living language, used for speech and writing by the Israelites, until the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. Aramaic, the political and cultural language of the Near East, gradually replaced Hebrew from about the sixth century B.C., and probably by the first century A.D.
Lesson One (Page 10), under the sub-title "Aramaic."
Aramaic has also influenced the writing systems of several languages; Hebrew, in fact, adopted the Aramaic script.
Lesson Four (Page 23), under the sub-title "Early Writing Systems."
In ancient days, Hebrew was written in the common script used alike by the Moabites, Hebrews and Phoenicians. It is known as the Phoenician, Canaanite or Paleo-Hebrew script.
The transition from the Phoenician script to the Square script was first effected in Aramaic, and then in Hebrew, about the fifth century B.C. This change occured, no doubt, because of the growing influence of the Aramaic language immediately before the Christian Era. This script eventually became known as the Aramaic, Ashuri or Square script. Ashuri is the Hebrew name for Assyrian. From this, the Square script we use today was developed.
Jewish tradition ascribes this change to Ezra, but the scientific view is that it was a gradual process. For a time, both scripts were used, as is evidenced not only by the Maccabean coins of the second century B.C., but also by the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here we find some scrolls in Phoenician script, some in early Aramaic, or Square, script, and a few others in both scripts. Later, the ancient form was completely abandoned. The ancient script has been preserved until the present day by the Samaritans in Palestine.
I hope this helps!