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Armenian Jerusalem
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian
Elia    Kahvedjian's    adept    fingers    could    tease    the    strings    of    his    banjo    and    mandolin    into    seductive    dances    and renditions,   just   as   skillfully   and   felicitously   as   they   could   coax   his   treasured   Hasselblad   and   Leica   into   turning   out irresistible    photographic    compositions.    A    legend    in    his    time,    the    mild-mannered    Armenian    photographer    of Jerusalem,   survived   a   horrendous   ordeal   of   starvation,   torture   and   genocide,   and   a   run   in   with   nefarious   cannibals, by dint of sheer guts, determination and luck, to leave an indelible imprint on the cultural history of the Holy City.        Jirair   Tutunjian,   a   Jerusalemite   who   currently   lives   in   Canada,   has   kindly   contributed   this   review.   He   says:   “[Some time   ago],   historian   George   Bournoutian   of   Iona   College   in   N.Y.   visited   Toronto   to   talk   about   the   exciting   chapter   of the   New   Julfa   merchants,   who   travelled   across   Iran,   Afghanistan,   Pakistan,   India,   Bangladesh,   Burma   (Myanmar), Thailand,   Hong   Kong,   Singapore,   Dutch   Batavia   and   to   the   Philippines   before   Europeans   monopolized   the   East-West trade. After   the   speech,   I   bought   from   Mr.   Bournoutian   a   rare   copy   of   "The   Travel Accounts   of   Simeon   of   Poland."   Mr. Bournoutian   had   annotated   and   translated   the   book   from   Armenian.   What   intrigues   us   most   is   Simeon’s   accouont   of life in Jerusalem in the early 17th Century.            For   most   of   the   world,   Calouste   Gulbenkian   will   always   be   known   as   Mr   Five   Percent,   the   man   who   held   that   much        stock   in   the   Iraqi   Petroleum   Company.   But   for Armenians   in   general,   and   their   Old   City   of   Jerusalem   in   particular,   the name   Gulbenkian   evokes   notions   of   a   much   grander   and   more   lasting   perspective:   this   is   the   family   that   has,   for   over two   centuries,   held   Jerusalem   above   all   their   joys,   lavishing   upon   it   veneration,   affection   and   largesse   that   can never be quantified.             Robert   Marashlian   has   been   writing   poetry   for   as   long   as   he   can   remember.   But   somehow   he   never   got   around   to having   any   of   his   work   published.   Until   now.      New York   publisher   Vantage   Press   has   now   made   that   dream   of   his   come true.   The   new   poetry   anthology   is   entitled   "The   Odyssey   of   Life."   "The   poetry   of   Robert   Marashlian   is   frequently   a criticism   of   contemporary   society's   beliefs   as   well   as   the   way   we   now   live.   His   work   reflects   his   feelings   toward   the outstanding events of our times, not to mention his profound appreciation of life," according to a book review.                The   Hebrew   University   of   Jerusalem   has   spearheaded   the   publication   of   an   English   translation   of   a   virtually   unknown Armenian   medieval   epic   that   graphically   expresses   the   yearning   of   the   first   people   to   convert   to   Christianity   for salvation   and   paradise.   The   translation   into   English,   the   first   ever,   was   the   work   of   the   noted Armenologist,   Michael Stone,   director   of   the   university's   Armenian   studies   program,   balancing   literary   felicity   with   faithfulness   to   the original,   uncovering   medieval   Armenian   poetic   tradition   through   its   more   than   6,000   gracefully   translated   lines. Stone’s   work   has   brought   alive   the   brilliance   of   paradise,   the   wickedness   of   Satan,   and   the   inner   struggle   of   the   first man   and   woman,   Adam   and   Eve,   in   his   rendition   of   the   early   15th   CE   epic   "Adamgirk:   The   Adam   Book   of   Arakel   of Siwnik."                 The   checkered   history   of   the Armenians   in   Jerusalem,   with   their   remarkable   achievements   [among   them   the   setting up   of   the   city's   first   photographic   studio   and   printing   press]   have   been   relatively   well   documented   over   the   years   by Western   scholars   fascinated   by   this   remote   remnant   of   an   exotic   race.  Although   diaspora Armenians   themselves   have been   demonstrably   lax   in   chronicling   the   endeavors   of   their   compatriots   in   Jerusalem   the   gap   left   by   such   illustrious historians   as   Hovhanissian,   Ormanian,   Savaleantz   and   Sanjian   has   been   admirably   filled   by   objective   observers, particularly   from   Europe.   A   definitive   account   (if   there   ever   can   be   one)   by   a   native   Armenian   Jerusalemite   is   long overdue, the lapse difficult to explain.           Although   the Armenian   connection   with   Jerusalem   began   some   two   centuries   before   the   advent   of   Christianity,   when the   victorious   armies   of   King   Tigranes   II   swept   across   the   land,   extending   an   empire   that   encompassed   much   of   the known   world   then,   documentary   evidence   from   that   period   is   scant   and   fragmentary.   The   armies   had   left   behind colonies   of Armenians   whose   numbers   were   constantly   replenished   and   augmented   over   the   years,   but   few,   if   any,   of the   records   they   must   have   kept   over   the   years,   have   survived.    One   such   exception   is   a   letter   from   a   Byzantine bishop, unearthed recently by leading Armenian scholar, Prof Abraham Terian.         The   Armenians    of    the    Holy    Land    have    proved    a    fertile    breeding    ground    for    prolific    artisans    and    craftsmen, philosophers    and    musicians,    poets    and    journalists,    but    social    historians    rarely    merit    a    mention.    (Tourian    and Ormanian   were   more   interested   in   church   affairs).     With   the   unfortunate   result   that   the   history   of   this   vibrant community   has   never   been   fully   documented,   except   for   one   or   two   books,   the   relatively   recent   John   Rose  "Armenians   of   Jerusalem"   and   an   earlier   guidebook   by   the   late   Assadour   Antreassian.   Kevork   Hintlian's   heavily researched   "History   of   the   Armenians   in   the   Holy   Land"   (1989,   2nd   ed.,   Armenian   Patriarchate   Printing   Press, Jerusalem) comes very close to redressing the balance.           IIt   is   a   crying   shame   that   a   truly   comprehensive   and   scholarly   gratifying   history   of   the   annals   of   the   Armenians   of Jerusalem   had   not   yet   been   penned   before   Haig   Krikorian   embarked   on   his   8-year   long   Herculean   endeavor   to produce   his   epic   “Tales   of   the   Armenian   Patriarchs   of   Jeruslem.”   It   makes   fascinating   reading   with   its   meticulous attention to detail and endless anecdotal forays.    
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Since   early   childhood,   Sarkis   Antikajian   had   nurtured   one   paramount   dream:   to   paint,   to   be   an   artist,   to   give expression   to   the   creative   urges   in   him   by   metamorphosing   them   into   landscapes,   portraits,   still   lifes.But   the   fact that   he   was   growing   up   in   a   part   of   the   world   where   art   took   last   place   to   the   struggle   for   survival,   did   not   prove easily   conducive   to   the   realization   of   that   dream.   So   he   had   to   bide   his   time   and   be   satisfied   with   continuing   to study, hope and plan.