Armenian Jerusalem
nheritors of the JABU tradition

Hagop Zakarian, who passed away recently in Miami, Florida, was one of

the most colorful and memorable members of the Kaghakatsi clan in the

Old City of Jerusalem. He was affectionately referred to as "sab' ul leil"

(Arabic for "tiger of the night") for his indomitable courage and loyalty.

In a newsletter he distributed prior to his death, he recalls the events that led to the establishment of the Jerusalem Armenian Benevolent Union (JABU), which subsequently became one of the Old City's most dynamic Armenian community clubs. It was in the epochal year 1929 (when the Gulbenkian library and the Sts Tarkmanchats parochial school were inaugurated) that a group of kahgakatsi community leaders came together to lay the groundwork for JABU. Some 20 years later, before the outbreak of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, JABU received another shot in the arm when a new committee of 9 decided to resurrect and refurbish it after a period of relative somnolence. These were Hagop himself and Antranig Bakerjian, Kevork Kaplanian, Ghazaros Pashaian, Melkon Babigian, Krikor Mnatzaganian, Apraham Toumayan and Mourad Mouradian, all of whom lamentably deceased. The "transition" that took place in 1948 was aimed at blending "the founders with the new members in order to follow through what our founders were doing," Hagop says in his circular. "During the transition a new committee of nine members was elected and given the responsibility to remain identical to the same work the founders were doing," he adds. The nine included merchants, businessmen and public servants and were leading "kaghakatsi"s. Under their guidance, the JABU club was ushered into a golden. However, the 1967 Six Day War and relentless attrition among the "kaghakatsi" ranks saw JABU's glory begin to fade. Hagop, who was is still a spry 89 when he penned his newsletter, wanted the "agoump" (club)to "grow and remain as strong as it was in the past." "This will make everyone of us very proud of our heritage and hard work. I am very confident that the committee that is running the 'agoump' right now is very experienced and responsible. I will support them in every way I can," he adds. Despite the political vicissitudes and the wars and tribulations, JABU continues to function, albeit at a more modest pace. The building has received an uplift, a fitness centre set up, and the hall redecorated. It is in great demand for christening and wedding receptions. On its extensive stage, ham JABU actors and aspiring lecturers, regaled a whole generation of Armenians, some of the plays performed there quite ambitious in their daring scope. A painting of three Disney characters, including Donald Duck and his mischievous nephews, orchestrated by another illustrious kahgakatsi, Kevork ("Kawarek") Koukeyan nearly 50 years ago, still adorns one wall.