Did you know, #Armenian district is 1 of 4 districts of ancient #Jerusalem with dozens of ancient churches & buildings. Armenians didn’t flee from city after falling of Jerusalem in 13th c., preserve heritage up today. Cool pics by blogger #Lapshin.
“This Is Google Translation from Russian”
Perhaps the most inaccessible place for tourists of ancient Jerusalem is its picturesque Armenian quarter, the smallest of the four main parts of the city: Muslim, Jewish and Christian. It would be more accurate to say that the part of the quarter where the churches, cells and the monastery are located is not available, that is, its most interesting part. Today, thanks to my kind Armenian friends and the abbot of the Sv.Arkhangel family, Gevond Vardapetu, an old dream has finally come true and I saw this unusual place. From the west and south the quarter is surrounded by the walls of the old city and, accordingly, the Jaffa and Zion gates, from the north to the Christian quarters, and from the east to the Jewish quarters. It is not only the smallest area of old Jerusalem, but also the most sparsely populated. See for yourself: in the Muslim quarter about 20 thousand people, in the Jewish quarter about 12 thousand, in the Christian quarter (Greek, Catholics, Ethiopians, Copts) another six thousand. There are only 200 Armenians.
It is considered that the first Armenians arrived in Jerusalem almost 2 thousand years ago, in the first century of our era. At the same time, the construction of churches and monasteries began, which have not survived until our days, but in their place are a little more new temples built by Armenians in the 12-16 centuries. It turns out that the Armenian community in Jerusalem can be considered the oldest of all Christians living in this city. Also, an interesting fact is that after the fall of the Kingdom of the Crusaders in 1291 and the capture of the Holy Land by Muslims, from here all Christians fled, but apart from the Armenians. The latter managed to agree with the Muslims that they would allow them to stay in Jerusalem. Not just so, of course, and in return for paying a “tax for the infidels”, but this allowed to preserve its presence and property.
Many people mistakenly believe that the entire Armenian quarter is completely hidden behind powerful walls. This is not entirely true, as part of the quarter is quite open to itself, in particular the Armenian Patriarchate road, stretching from the Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate along the western part of the old city and the walls. There are a lot of Armenian guest houses, shops, restaurants. Regarding the latter, to be honest, in my opinion all these establishments of Armenian traditional cuisine are unreasonably expensive and it did not occur to me to eat there.
The entrance to the Armenian Patriarchate and the monastery of St. Jacobs through the massive gate (note which these gates are ancient) under the signage of “Convent Armenien”, after which you immediately get to the churchyard in front of St. James Church –
Khachkars, brought from Armenia relatively recently and looking a little strange in these ancient walls –
Climbing the territory of the monastery, you get to a large courtyard with many doors and windows. It is like the cells of monks, and the administrative premises of the Patriarchate –
As we said above, in the old Jerusalem today there are 200 Armenians, plus 20 clergymen. In addition, about a hundred seminarians, mostly from Armenia and the United States. A further 2,000 to 3,000 Armenians live in a new part of the city, but many of them are secular people and parishioners of churches are not. Meanwhile, until the proclamation of the independence of Israel in 1948, 16 to 40 thousand Armenians lived in the city according to various sources, but almost all of them fled from Jerusalem, fearing to be between the “hammer and the anvil” in the war of the Jews with the Arabs. Bloody battles unfolded right in the Old City and around the Armenian quarter. No sooner had the remaining several thousand Armenians come to their senses after the first war, as the Six Day War of 1967 struck when Israeli troops stormed the Old City and despite the fact that none of the conflicting parties had anything against the Armenians, they decided to leave Jerusalem. For many years the Armenian part was in desolation and with incomprehensible prospects for the future.
As if there were few wars and conflicts, as in 1981 an incredible thing happened for the Armenian church – the Jerusalem archbishop Shah Ajamyan sold a portion of the Patriarchate’s land to the Jerusalem municipality for bribes. After that he fled from Jerusalem and Israel as a whole. If the conflict between Jews and Arabs was perceived by local Armenians as an inevitable evil, the betrayal of their own archbishop is truly a shameful page in the history of the Armenian quarter of Jerusalem.
As for the status of Armenians in Israel, this is an equally controversial issue, like everything related to the Armenian people. Some Armenians have Israeli citizenship, firstly, those who did not flee in 1948 and 1967 (their minority, several hundred people), secondly the families of Jewish emigrants from the USSR (2-3 thousand). Finally, Armenians from those who came to Jerusalem to serve on a religious line, they have a residence permit from the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Israel, or Palestinian identity cards (for those who primarily serve in Bethlehem). Those who came to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union also have Armenian citizenship other than Israeli.
Regarding the relationship between the Armenians of Jerusalem and the Israeli authorities, everything is generally normal. It is another matter that once the influential and large community has lost its importance and the authorities perceive the local Armenians exclusively formally. Visas are given, the norms of the law are generally respected, the treatment is answered, security is provided. But the letter does not go beyond dry trailing. The country’s leadership does not spoil the attention of the community, participation in those or other ceremonies (including the Day of Remembrance of Genocide Victims) does not participate. Well, by and large, and God is with them, with the authorities. The main thing is that they do not create problems and on this one already thanks.
By the way, the collapse of the USSR was a blessing for the Jerusalem Armenians, as the borders were opened and Armenians from already independent Armenia began to replenish the community. In addition, Armenian pilgrims and tourists come here more often, plus Armenians from the Diaspora from France and the United States.
Once upon a time, monks lived in cells without any comfort. Today they have quite comfortable rooms, facilities, internet, TV. Everything a modern person needs.
Actually, the monastic cells –
As far back as in the Armenian quarter, there is a unique library of Galust Gulbeknjan with tens of thousands of unique books, as well as a separate depository of ancient manuscripts (about 4 thousand of them), many of which date from the 12th to the 13th centuries. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get to a person from the outside. How not to get into the chic museum –
Suddenly see a football field in the middle of the monastery? It will be even more unusual to hear that not only residents of the quarter play football here, but also fans of football from Catholics, Franciscans, Jews and many others. In the Old City chronically there is not enough free land (more precisely, it simply does not exist), so the football field in the center of Old Jerusalem is fantastic!
The administrative premises of the Armenian Patriarchate –
And this is a very unusual exhibit. The Yerevan artist applied biblical stories to the tile with computer graphics. One problem, the colors have partially faded, from which the hero on the left became a bit like Satan; at least such associations arose among many guests.
In the center of the quarter grows a very ancient olive tree, to which, based on the Gospel, they tied Jesus Christ at a time when the high priests Anna and Caiaphas were deciding what to do with it. Later came the belief that the fruits of this tree are cured of infertility. In truth, I do not believe in mysticism, but I do not doubt that only a belief in success cures from any misfortune and gives strength.
It is interesting that on the territory of the monastery, besides secular monks, secular Armenians also live, some of them also live in these two relatively new houses, closely adjacent to the Jewish quarter. There is also a small garden where vegetables and fruits are grown –
Inside the monastery are several churches: first, the Cathedral of St. James, the Church of the Archangels, the Church of St. Thoros and others.
These ancient gates have stood for centuries! But in the end they had to be replaced with new ones so that they would not fall on the parishioners –
Across the street and next to the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin (the German Catholic, the Order of Benedictines), there is an Armenian cemetery and the Theological Seminary. Actually, young boys from Armenia and the Diaspora are studying here –
Did you notice that the floor is lined with gravestones?
Without a doubt, the Armenian quarter is the greenest in the whole of Old Jerusalem, here you can find even grapes over shady avenues –
And we say goodbye to the Armenian quarter and go to supper! And by the way, we pass by another island of the Armenian life in Jerusalem. At a distance from the Armenian quarter, surrounded by Muslim regions, is the Armenian-Catholic Patriarchate. This is the smallest Armenian community in Jerusalem with no more than 100 parishioners. It’s hard for me to judge how the traditional Armenian church accepts and accepts Armenian Catholics, maybe readers will tell about it?
Damascus (Shechem) gate of the Old City is already the epicenter of the Muslim quarter and the most dangerous place in all of Jerusalem. Before these gates in the past few years, several dozen terrorist attacks on passers-by or the police have been committed. Because of this, police and soldiers armed to the teeth are constantly carrying around the gate. But this is a completely different story!
We’re having supper. Bon Appetit everyone!
p.s Abbot of the Monastery of St. Arkhangel, Gevond Vardapet conducted a magnificent escursion around the monastery, for which a huge thanks from us. An interesting and intelligent person. But I would like to add that he is also a chic photographer. Look at his work in his facebook, and all filmed on a regular phone. Terrific.
p.s 2 And tomorrow I’m going to take an excursion to the Palestinian territories from Abraham’s hostel, where I live in Jerusalem. This is interesting doubly, firstly because serving in the Israeli army, I rode there on a patrol jeep, and secondly, after the service, I often visited there as a tourist, while posing as a journalist for Russia Today 🙂