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Armenian Jerusalem

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. Hintlian, a former official at the Armenian Patriarchate of St James, has had to rely on mainly foreign sources in tracing the history of this colorful colony whose connection with the Holy Land goes back to the Assyrian and Babylonian eras. His exhaustive research has unearthed such gems as the fact that at least two Abbasid Caliphs had Armenian mothers. One of his resources, "A Relation of a Journey Begun in 1610," by George Sandys, is dated 1637. Hintlian provides an armchair travelogue that takes us on a whirlwind tour of several ancient Armenian churches scattered throughout the Holy Land, rich in history and artifacts, pausing at each edifice just long enough to whet our curiosity. His account makes repeated note of the fact that through the ages, the Armenians of the Holy Land were looked upon as role models. He cites as an example a description of the Armenians of his time by Fra Francesco Suriano, a 15th Century custos, (Franciscan custodian of the Holy Land), as "the most beautiful men and women in Jerusalem," qualifying them as "bold and generous." The slim 70-page booklet boasts 10 black and white plates depicting pages from some of the most beautiful Armenian manuscripts. It's a sad choice of presentation, robbing the pictures of their colorful splendor. The book being reviewed here is a second edition, and is probably out of print now. A second or enlarged volume, hopefully with colored plates, has long been overdue.
Easter circa 1930