The Oldest Person in the World?

It's there in black and white in Mariam Amash's Israeli passport: her year of birth -- 1888.

The original Ottoman Turkish birth certificate has been lost, but she is adamant that the year of her birth, even if no day or month is recorded, is accurate.

Which, at 120 years old, makes her the oldest person in the world.

The current holder of that Guinness Book of Records title is Edna Parker of Indiana, who is a mere 114 years old.

According to Amash, her longevity is a feat achieved with God's help and a diet of fish, vegetables and bottled water. She is a devout Muslim and has made the pilgrimage, or Hajj, to Mecca five times. Around her neck she wears blue prayer beads from Mecca.

She claims to have few medical problems, although she admits her hearing is not what it used to be.

We met Amash in her home in the Israeli Arab village of Jiser Al Zarqa in the north of Israel. She was surrounded by family, and what a family it is.

She had 10 children. There are 120 grandchildren, 250 great-grandchildren and 30 great-great grandchildren.

She says she can remember all their names.

In her cramped apartment Amash proudly showed me her Israeli passport and identity card, and both carry the year of birth 1888.

Amash was born in the village when the Ottoman Turks governed what was then Palestine. She lived through the British Mandate, which followed World War I, and the years of violence following the creation of the state of Israel.

She told us she longed for peace between Arabs and Jews.

Although her claim may never be proved, Amash has become a local celebrity. She appeared nervous in front of our camera and said ABC's would be the last interview she would be doing for a while.

As we left, she grabbed my arm and said she would invite me back in 10 years, when she'd be 130.

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