Armenian Jerusalem
“hokiyis takallagner”

For the Armenians of Jerusalem, descendants of a race of

mountainous warriors, but imbued as they have become with

the Middle Eastern ethic of sentimentality, a child is their

literal treasure on earth.

We believe that our children are the most important component of our existence: we live only for them. We don't live for ourselves. The children always come first. True, in some as yet unenlightened age, a father may, under extreme duress, take a belt to a recalcitrant son, or backhand a stubborn daughter, but almost as soon as the child is chastised, it is pulled back into the paternal or maternal embrace, the anomaly or transgression soon forgotten or forgiven almost immediately. And we spoil our children shamelessly. "You are the wheels of my soul," (hokiyis takallagner) is one of the most common endearments with which an Armenian parent will address a child. To us, our child is absolutely precious, but if there is any other human being we love more than our child, it will be our child's child, our grandchildren. The love endures forever. Even if that love is drastically tried in the face of childish misbehavior or alienation. No matter how old a child may be he or she will always have a place in our heart. It is not unusual for a mother to retain a piece of clothing, a shoe, worn by a little child, for years after he or she has grown up, married and had children of his or her own. And we have no qualms or inhibitions about demonstrating our love for our children, in private, in public, anywhere. And never, in the history of the Armenians of Jerusalem, has anyone ever heard of a son or daughter leaving home at 18. Go to university, even if overseas, yes, but leave home to live alone, elsewhere? Never has such an inconceivable abomination been visited upon the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The picture changes, of course, when the family emigrates and resettles abroad. Then the values of home drop by the wayside, and default values of the new mode of a foreign way of life replace them, as people try to adapt and adjust to the culture shock. Not always successfully. The overwhelming majority of "bantoukhd" (exile) Armenians, and non-Armenians as well, continue to pine for the old hearth they have abandoned, often unwillingly, under various unremitting pressures, through no choice of theirs. But they can't go back. Few ever make it back. There is no ingathering of exiles for them. And in the aftermath of the uprooting from the native soil, the children are lost to the relentlessly creeping embrace of assimilation: their native tongue is forgotten, the girls change their names when they intermarry with locals, all the cherished ancestral values, that provided their parents with stability and security, are discarded and drowned in the shallow cup of foreign mores. But it is not all a tale of gloom and doom. Many migrants, armed with hard honed experience and expertise gained in their native land, pick up where they left off, and achieve great success and glory in their new habitat, exploiting the magnificently promising new opportunities available to them. They never forget Jerusalem. For who can ever forget Jerusalem? This is the raison d'etre of the Armenian-Jerusalem website project: an attempt to preserve our culture, history and traditions against the inroads of assimilation, and to leave our progeny with a record and chronicle of their precious ancestry.