Spitting on Christians in Jerusalem raises eyebrows

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Spitting on Christians in Jerusalem raises eyebrows

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JERUSALEM From his ceramics gallery along Armenian Patriarchate Road, Garo Sandrouni has a sweeping view of one of the Old City of Jerusalem’s longest thoroughfares, stretching from Jaffa Gate deep into the Jewish Quarter.

Jewish worshipers heading to and from the Western Wall jostle for space along the narrow passage with Armenian priests and seminarians, and Sandrouni says about once a week he finds himself breaking up fights between them.

Typically the skirmishes begin when a young yeshiva student spits on or near a group of teenage seminarians, who occasionally respond by beating up their attacker. Several years ago, a young religious man pulled a gun when Sandrouni moved to intervene in a fight.

“Most of the incidents that happen, unfortunately, they happen in front of my store,” said Sandrouni, who more than once has come to the aid of a yeshiva student bloodied after a run-in with a group of seminarians.

“Almost everybody, after the fight, they apologized,” Sandrouni said. “They say, ‘We are sorry. We didn’t know that their reaction would be so strong.’”

Attacks on Christian clergyman in Jerusalem are not a new phenomenon, and may result from an extreme interpretation of the Bible’s injunction to “abhor” idol worshipers. Five years ago, in what many say is the worst incident on record, a crucifix hanging from the neck of the Armenian archbishop, Nourhan Manougian, was broken in the course of an altercation with a yeshiva student who had spit on him.

Christian leaders stress that the problem is not one of Christian-Jewish relations in Israel. Most Israelis, they say, are peaceful and welcoming. In an interview with several Armenian Jerusalemites, they emphasized repeatedly that their relations with the largely religious community in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter are normal.

The assaults, according to George Hintlian, a spokesman for the Armenian community in Jerusalem, are carried out by people from the outside — visitors to Jerusalem from other towns, and even from abroad.

Several people familiar with the issue say the attacks recently have reached epidemic proportions — or at least enough that government officials and Orthodox rabbinic figures have begun to take notice.

A recent meeting between Foreign Ministry officials, the Jerusalem municipality and fervently Orthodox, or haredi, leaders resulted in a statement by Beth Din Tzedek, a haredi rabbinic tribunal, denouncing the phenomenon. In a sign of the ministry’s concern over the issue, both the meeting and the statement were publicized on the Web site of Israel’s diplomatic mission to the Vatican.

“Besides desecrating the Holy Name, which in itself represents a very grave sin, provoking gentiles is, according to our sages — blessed be their holy and righteous memory — forbidden and is liable to bring tragic consequences upon our own community, may God have mercy,” said the statement.

The incident that appears to have gotten the ministry’s attention occurred last September, when a pair of teenage Armenian seminarians reportedly fought with a young yeshiva student who spit on them. Police intervened, arrested the seminarians and referred the matter to the Interior Ministry.

According to Hintlian, the seminarians are now facing deportation — a decision the Armenians have officially protested. Carrying out the order would require the police to seize the boys from their seminary in the Old City, Hintlian said, which likely would result in a public relations disaster.

“It won’t happen easily,” Hintlian said. “They’ll think twice.”

Though they may bear the brunt of the phenomenon, given the proximity of the Armenian and Jewish quarters, cases of spitting are confined neither to Armenian clergy nor the Old City.

Athanasius Macora, a Texas-born Franciscan friar who lives in western Jerusalem, frequently has been the target of spitting during his nearly two decades residing in the Israeli capital.

Macora, whose brown habit easily identifies him as a Christian clergyman, says that while he has not endured any spitting incidents recently, recollections of past incidents started flowing over the course of 30-minute interview.

In a sitting room at Terra Sancta College, where he is the superior, Macora recalled the blond-haired man who spit at him on Agron Street, not far from the U.S. Consulate. Another time, walking with an Armenian priest in the same area, a man in a car opened his window to let the spittle fly. Once it was a group of yeshiva students in the Old City, another time a young girl.

Sometimes the assailants are clad in distinctive haredi garb; other times the attackers are wearing the knitted yarmulkes of the national religious camp. In almost all cases, though, they are young religious men.

A Franciscan church just outside the Old City walls was vandalized recently with anti-Christian graffiti, Macora said.

“I think it’s just a small group of people who are hostile, and a very small group of people,” Macora said. “If I go to offices or other places, a lot of people are very friendly.”

Meanwhile, the Beth Din Tzedek statement, and an earlier one from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, have impressed the Christians and raised hopes that the spitting may soon end.

“We hope that this problem will be solved one day,” Sandrouni said, “for the sake of mutual coexistence.”

Rainy London

Just Amazing

S. Laura Artworks

Rainy London

 

Rainy London, November 2013, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 35 cm

Buy original (and prints) here.

I’ve always liked London, or, better said, its weather. In spite of the constant rain and moisture, it also exhales warmth and comfort. I try to translate the experiences behind certain situation because I consider that you have to first taste bad in order to appreciate the good parts in life. In this painting, for instance, only the cold rain the pedestrians must face will make them truly appreciate the warmth provided by their homes. And, as a spot of color, I added one of the elements, which in my opinion, represents the color of the city itself: a phone booth.

My advice is that you shouldn’t just stare at the painting; try to imagine yourself trading places with one of the pedestrians on the sidewalk.

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5 Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

5 Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

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Entrepreneurship is a popular goal these days, for everyone from Gen Y college grads to mid-career workers looking for a change. But not everyone knows what entrepreneurship really re really cut out for it.

While the notion of “working for yourself” might appeal to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got what it takes to make it in the stressful and challenging world of entrepreneurship. If being your own boss is on your bucket list, take a look first at these five traits of successful entrepreneurs. If they remind you of you, then you’re on the right track!

1. Passion

If you don’t have passion for whatever it is you’re thinking of doing, count yourself out right now. Entrepreneurship is not a path for the lukewarm. It’s too full of ups and downs and setbacks and challenges for anyone who isn’t “all in” to make a successful go of it.

If your passion lies solely in “making lots of money,” I’d also encourage you to try something else. There are plenty of less-risky ventures, from franchise ownership to investing in the stock market, that will require much less blood, sweat, and tears on your part and that have a more proven record of return on investment. Entrepreneurship is a labor of love, and you don’t have the love, you won’t go very far.

2. Drive

Passion and drive are not one and the same. Plenty of people have hobbies they’re passionate about, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to make a full-time business of them.

Drive is defined as “an innate urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need.” If you love baking but only do it when you feel like it, you may be passionate, but you’ve only got a hobby. If you’re determined to become the boutique bakery in your city and have your name listed on Yelp, and you won’t rest till you get there, you’ve got drive.

Drive is absolutely essential for making a go of whatever business you’re thinking of pursuing. It will help you conquer obstacles, get through long hours and setbacks, and keep moving and improving your products and services. 

3. Self-Discipline 

Contrary to popular daydreams, being your own boss does not equal sleeping in till noon and taking endless vacation days—at least not if you want to run a business that has any chance of success.

When you’re the only one peering over your shoulder, you need to be able to keep yourself on task in the face of distractions, challenges, and the tempting knowledge that you can technically do whatever you want, whenever you want, without getting in any immediate trouble. You have to be able to look at the big picture and realize that cutting corners now will only hurt you down the road. 

4. Flexibility

Entrepreneurs wear many hats. They are accountants, marketers, PR reps, customer service agents, project managers, and more. You need to be willing to dive into all aspects of your business, from the creative to the mundane, in order to create something with traction.

You also have to be willing to learn on the go, as you will never fully be “ready” to run a business, and there will always be new developments and challenges to assimilate and overcome. If you’re not prepared to be a lifelong learner, entrepreneurship may not be for you.

5. A Healthy Dose of Pragmatism

Entrepreneurs are interesting creatures. On the one hand, they often find themselves pursuing goals that seem lofty and unrealistic to those around them—why not just stay with a traditional employer and have a steady paycheck with benefits? On the other hand, they also need to be fully grounded. As much as you believe in your gourmet cupcakes, if customers are telling you a couple of your favorite flavors don’t do it for them, you need to be willing to let them go.

Successful entrepreneurs know how to walk the line between stubborn self-confidence and humble realism. They’re willing to believe in their dreams and pursue them with everything they have, but they’re also willing to change course, pivot, and tweak their plans to align with their circumstances. If you veer too far in one direction or the other, you may not be able to perform the balancing act.

The Ancient Ghost City of Ani

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

The Ancient Ghost City of Ani

Situated on the eastern border of Turkey, across the Akhurian River from Armenia, lies the empty, crumbling site of the once-great metropolis of Ani, known as “the city of a thousand and one churches.” Founded more than 1,600 years ago, Ani was situated on several trade routes, and grew to become a walled city of more than 100,000 residents by the 11th century. In the centuries that followed, Ani and the surrounding region were conquered hundreds of times — Byzantine emperors, Ottoman Turks, Armenians, nomadic Kurds, Georgians, and Russians claimed and reclaimed the area, repeatedly attacking and chasing out residents. By the 1300s, Ani was in steep decline, and it was completely abandoned by the 1700s. Rediscovered and romanticized in the 19th century, the city had a brief moment of fame, only to be closed off by World War I and the later events of the Armenian Genocide that left the region an empty, militarized no-man’s land. The ruins crumbled at the hands of many: looters, vandals, Turks who tried to eliminate Armenian history from the area, clumsy archaeological digs, well-intentioned people who made poor attempts at restoration, and Mother Nature herself. Restrictions on travel to Ani have eased in the past decade, allowing the following photos to be taken.

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