Armenian Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 2007
Chronicle 2


Two of the supreme leaders of the Armenian church in the Holy Land were kaghakatsis, members of the Mnatzaganian clan, according to family sources. This, despite the fact that an unwritten Patriarchate edict prohibits kaghakatsi youth from joining the church as members of the priestly Brotherhood of St James. Ardavazt Minassian, whose mother is a Mnatzaganian, and Apraham Mnatzaganian report separately that their common ancestral family included a son who later became Patriarch Giragos.
New Patriarch for Jerusalem
Patriarch Vehabedian
     The Armenian church in Jerusalem is perched on the verge of a new era following the election today of its new Patriarch, the 97th in a direct line of succession from Abraham, the first Armenian patriarch of the Holy City.
Abraham was a contemporary of the Arab Caliph, Omar ibnul Khattab, who conquered Jerusalem, and held office from 638 to 669 CE.
It is early in the day in the Old City of Jerusalem, and virtually no one is up and around. It will be some time before the serenity of its streets and alleys is disturbed by the tread of heavy feet and the babble of many voices. After an abbreviated breakfast of "ka'ek" (the elliptical bread roll cocooned in sesame seeds) and "falafel," I stand before the ornately decorated gate of Deir El Siryan, the Syriac or Assyrian Convent of St Mark.
The Armenians of Jerusalem had more than their share of comedians, clowns and pranksters: they thrived on laughter. One of the most incorrigible and accomplished was Hortanan (Jordan) Marashlian, a Kaghakatsi. He was ready to perform at the drop of a hat - if anyone deserved an Oscar, it would be him. There was the time Hortanan Marashlian decided to spring a practical joke on Im Arakel (Anna Baghsarian).
The Greek doctor
Sometime during a lull in the 1948 Arab-Jewish war, a group or urchins were trawling through the ruins of a china shop in the Armenian Quarter. They found nothing worth picking in the shop which had been looted and thoroughly thrashed. Suddenly, one of the boys shouted, "I found something." It was a heavy metal ball, with spikes all over it, a veritable treasure. Still, they were lucky: the unexploded Mills grenade was a dud, the young man who relieved them of their treasure revealed, as he disarmed it. Some of those boys happened to star in another dud drama: a projectile fired by either the Arabs or the Jews landed in the kitchen of a family, but failed to explode. It was only the bravery of a man, who was dwarfed by the missile's size, who carried it bodily down the stairs.
No pineapple!
Kaghakatsi patriarchs: Giragos, Harutiun
First Syriac priest ordained in century
The 1920’s: a watershed for Armenian Jerusalem
The late 1920s were a watershed in the history of the Armenians in the Holy Land. It was during this seminal epoch that the Armenian community laid the groundwork for a school of its own, the Tarkmanchatz, which has given the world more than its quota of luminaries (including Ohan Durian, the great composer) as well as a large library, both institutions gifts of Calouste Gulbenkian, who was known in oil and financial circles as Mr Five Percent, a reference to his stake in the Iraq Petroleum Company.      The library ranks as one of the most important in the Armenian diaspora. It boasts close to 100,000 volumes, of which less than half are in Armenian. The rest are mainly in English, French, and German, as well as quite a few dead languages, including hieroglyphics.
The gentle conscript
    Like many young Kaghakatzi men of his age, Hagop Hovsepian (who later changed his family name to Hagopian), was conscripted into the Ottoman army during their occupation of Palestine.      But unlike several of his compatriots who perished during Sefer Berlik (First World War), he survived. He did return home, but he was a broken man.
News Headlines Armenian 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 Jerusalem For 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 Church The 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.
Some Armenian expressions
A large proporion of sayings or expressions popular among the Kaghakatsi Armenians, are derived from either Turkish or Arabic. Here is a sampling: Sako (coat) Bisseh (cat) Falagha (loudmouth) Tarmah (idiotic, female) Atram (idiot, male) Kakikipcheh (busybody) Shalabi (nice) Bedkaran (toilet) ‘Hanafiyeh (faucet) Kubbash (wild hair) Churchbayeh (screen door) Chakouj (hammer) Shartootah (rag) Chatal (fork) Kabboud (heavy coat) Tata (henpecked) Sobbah (heater)
Turn page The Kaghakatsi Family Tree The Kaghakatsi clans lived in the Armenian Quarter and their members ranked in the thousands, all directly or indirectly related to one another.