TheArmenianchurchin Jerusalemisperchedonthevergeof anewerafollowingtheelection todayofitsnewPatriarch,the97th inadirectlineofsuccessionfrom Abraham,thefirstArmenian patriarch of the Holy City.
Abrahamwasacontemporaryofthe ArabCaliph,Omar ibnulKhattab,whoconqueredJerusalem,andheldoffice from 638 to 669 CE.
ItisearlyinthedayintheOldCityofJerusalem,and virtuallynooneisupandaround.Itwillbe sometimebeforetheserenityofits streetsandalleysisdisturbedbythe treadofheavyfeetandthebabbleof many voices.Afteranabbreviatedbreakfastof"ka'ek" (theellipticalbreadrollcocoonedin sesameseeds)and"falafel,"Istandbefore theornatelydecoratedgateofDeirEl Siryan, the Syriac or Assyrian Convent of St Mark.
The ArmeniansofJerusalemhadmore thantheirshareofcomedians,clowns andpranksters:theythrivedon laughter. Oneofthemostincorrigibleand accomplishedwasHortanan(Jordan) Marashlian,aKaghakatsi.Hewasready toperformatthedropofahat-if anyonedeservedanOscar,itwouldbe him. TherewasthetimeHortanan Marashliandecidedtospringapractical joke on Im Arakel (Anna Baghsarian).
The Greek doctor
Sometimeduringalullinthe1948 Arab-Jewishwar,agrouporurchinswere trawlingthroughtheruinsofachina shopintheArmenianQuarter.They foundnothingworthpickingintheshop whichhadbeenlootedandthoroughly thrashed.Suddenly,oneoftheboysshouted,"I found something."Itwasaheavymetalball,withspikes alloverit,averitabletreasure.Still, theywerelucky:theunexplodedMills grenadewasadud,theyoungmanwho relievedthemoftheirtreasurerevealed, as he disarmed it.Someofthoseboyshappenedtostar inanotherduddrama:aprojectilefired byeitherthe ArabsortheJewslandedin thekitchenofafamily,butfailedto explode.Itwasonlythebraveryofa man,whowasdwarfedbythemissile's size,whocarrieditbodilydownthe stairs.
Kaghakatsi patriarchs: Giragos, Harutiun
First Syriac priest ordained in century
The 1920’s: a watershed for Armenian Jerusalem
Thelate1920swereawatershedinthehistoryofthe ArmeniansintheHolyLand.Itwasduringthisseminalepoch thattheArmeniancommunitylaidthegroundworkfora schoolofitsown,theTarkmanchatz,whichhasgiventhe worldmorethanitsquotaofluminaries(includingOhan Durian,thegreatcomposer)aswellasalargelibrary,both institutionsgiftsofCalousteGulbenkian,whowasknownin oilandfinancialcirclesasMrFivePercent,areferenceto his stake in the Iraq Petroleum Company. Thelibraryranksasoneofthemostimportantinthe Armeniandiaspora.Itboastscloseto100,000volumes,of whichlessthanhalfareinArmenian.Therestaremainlyin English,French,andGerman,aswellasquiteafewdead languages, including hieroglyphics.
The gentle conscript
LikemanyyoungKaghakatzimenof hisage,HagopHovsepian(wholater changedhisfamilynametoHagopian), wasconscriptedintotheOttomanarmy during their occupation of Palestine.Butunlikeseveralofhiscompatriots whoperishedduringSeferBerlik(First WorldWar),hesurvived.Hedidreturn home, but he was a broken man.
News HeadlinesArmenian arts and crafts Jerusalem Armenians have had their share of poets, troubadours and story-tellers, but although records or anthologies of the accomplishments of previous generations are non-existent, memories still linger among their descendants, some of these very vivid.The Gulbenkians in JerusalemFor 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.The Armenian ChurchThe church has always dominated the Armenian Jerusalem landscape. Throughout its troubled history, it has always been the priestly brotherhood that has provided the Armenians with the impetus and inspiration to forge ahead. Priests invented the Armenian alphabet, they were in the vanguard of armies on the march, they gave Jerusalem its first printing press and its first photographic studio, they copied and illustrated manuscripts, their convent sheltered the battle- scarred flock in the Old City of Jerusalem.