Armenian Jerusalem
Armenian Quarter where he grew up
Jirair Stepanian, a man of unquestionable integrity, humility and and generosity, passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 27. He was born in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, a hundred yards from the Syriac church of St Mark, one-time depository of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the compound known as "Dar el 'Ajayez," Home of the Old Ones. (Like all the other "compounds," or collection of houses grouped together with a common courtyard, in the Armenian Quarter, the appellation was in no way derogatory, but a descriptive intimation of the contents of the compound, or the character of the reigning family patriarch). As little children, we used to run riot in the courtyard, much to the chagrin of his mother, the daunting Christina. I remember one time when Jirair suffered a fall and lost some of his teeth. He refused to tell his parents about the incident - an inclination at self-negation and modesty that he carried on into adult life. Jirair was generous to a fault. If someone borrowed anything from him, Jirair would not seek repayment. He would wait for that person to come back to him by himself. We loved going to the movies together. One of the films we saw was "The Last Time I saw Paris" starring Elizabeth Taylor. We were sitting in Jerusalem's newly built Al Hamra movie theatre, and he provided a crying shoulder for me as I poured out my adolescent agony at having been jilted by a girl. Another occasional favorite pastime was the night trip to Zeferiadis, the Greek tavern, where we had a drink or two, usually sweet wine. We also spent many an afternoon lounging outside the Singer Sewing shop in the Christian Quarter where he worked. We would lean against the wall and watch the passing crowd, with an eye out for the girls. But neither of us had the temerity to accost any of them! Along with my cousin David Kaplanian, we formed a close-knit Kaghakatsi triumvirate. We were active members of the Boy Scout movement and that provided us with ample opportunities to participate in thrilling adventures. Sedate and gifted with an enduring sense of humor, Jirair never seemed to lose his temper: all the years I had known him, I never heard him raise his voice. Jirair leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Shakeh, daughter Sonia, his son Raffi, his grandchildren Ari, Tivine and Alec, his brothers Torkom, Kevork and Haigaz, his sister Arousiag and his nephews and nieces. All of whom this gentle, kindly man, doted upon.