Israel must protect Armenian Christians from attacks in Jerusalem – Armen Sarkissian

Large recent coordinated attacks against members of the Armenian community of Jerusalem are a matter of grave concern, Armenia’s former President Armen Sarkissian says in an op-ed published by Haaretz.

According to him, these attacks have ranged from vandalism and destruction of property to physical violence against innocent civilians.

The seriousness of the situation was underscored in a statement released by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which said that Armenian clerics are “fighting for their lives”, while the Armenian Quarter—one of the four sections of the old city of Jerusalem—is facing the threat of “a violent demise.”

The Armenian Church, with its fabulous treasure of antiquities, owns a third of Christian holy places in Jerusalem, while the city’s Armenian Quarter has a millennia-long history. The violence there stems from a dispute around a 99-year lease of approximately 25 percent of the Armenian Quarter to an Australian-Israeli businessman and his local partner who planned to build a luxury hotel on the site.

Two months ago, in response to the disquiet within the Armenian community, the Armenian Patriarchate decided to exit the contract. Rather than engage in talks, however, the developers mobilized construction equipment and began preparatory groundwork. The Armenian Patriarchate then initiated legal proceedings to annul its agreement with them. Once again, rather than walk the legal route, the disgruntled side, according the Armenian Patriarchate, reacted with violence.

“The Armenians who arrived as refugees from the genocide in the Ottoman Empire a century ago not only enlarged Jerusalem’s ancient Armenian community but also enriched the crafts of Israel by resuming in Israel the skilled ceramics works that had been decimated by the Ottoman Empire. The finest “Kuthaya Ceramics”, named after the Armenian city in Anatolia, are now to be found in Israel. Ceramic tiles crafted by Armenian refugees adorn some of Jerusalem’s most illustrious buildings, including the American Colony Hotel and the residence of the Israeli president,” Armen Sarkissian says.

“Unfortunately, what is happening in and to the Armenian Quarter is threatening more than the concord that has defined the Armenian community’s presence in Jerusalem. It is imperiling the very foundation of Jerusalem’s unique character. And it demands immediate intervention by the authorities. Israel, as a nation founded on the rule of law, must take swift action to protect the Armenian community, their historic heritage, and the uniqueness of Jerusalem,” he emphasizes.

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