Mariam Amash filled in the routine form with anything but routine information. Amash, who recently applied for a new Israeli identity card, said she was born 120 years ago -- a claim, if confirmed, that would make her the oldest person in the world. The Guinness Book of Records currently lists 114-year-old Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, as holding that title.
Sabine Haddad, a spokeswoman for Israel's Interior Ministry, confirmed that Amash, from the Israeli Arab village of Jisr a-Zarka, is listed in the population registry as having been born in 1888. "We're just not sure it's correct," Haddad said.
The listing was based on a birth certificate issued by Turkish authorities who ruled the region at the time, she said. Ministry clerks in an Israeli city near Amash's village found out about her claim this week when she came in to replace an identity card she lost.
Relatives said she has 10 sons and one daughter, her eldest, now in her late 80s. She has about 120 grandchildren, 250 great-grandchildren and 20 great-great grandchildren, they said.
'Healthy, active woman'
A granddaughter-in-law, Hamda Amash, 40, said Mariam is a "healthy, active woman. She walks each day and makes sure she drinks at least one glass of olive oil." She was a pampered second wife who married relatively late, explaining the ages of her children, Hamda Amash said. "Her house is always full of people," she said. "People like to come to her house. She talks to us about the old days. She knows the history since the Turkish times." Turkish control over the Holy Land ended with World War I.
A devout Muslim, she has made four pilgrimages to Mecca, the last one about 15 years ago, when she would have been over 100, relatives said.
Amarilis Espinoza, a Guinness spokeswoman in London, said she was not familiar with Amash's contention, but said multiple documents would need to be produced to back up a birth certificate, like the birth certificates of a spouse and children, death certificates, school certificates and medical examinations.
"Anything that helps reconstruct the timeline of the person back to that age," Espinoza explained. "There is a lot of documentation that needs to be prepared before we could announce a person is the oldest person."