Happy Chanukah My Friend

“Happy Hanukkah: Peace, success, security. Friends, fun and family. We hope the spirit of Hanukkah. Fills you with happiness and warmth. And may your season be filled with beautiful lights.”

Happy Hanukkah My Friend

Lyric:

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Spin the dreidle light the lights
Ev’ryone stay home tonight
The story is told
The young and the old toge-ther

As twilight greets the setting sun
Light the candles one by one
Remember the past
Traditions that last Forev-er

Come let’s share the joy of Hanukkah
May our friendship grow
as the candles glow
Oh, won’t you
Come and share the joy of Hanukkah
And we’re hoping all
you’re wishing for comes true
Happy Hanukkah, my friend, from me to you!

Candle light or star above
Messages of peace and love
Their meaning is clear
We all were put here as broth-ers
So let’s begin with you and me
Let friendship shine eternally
May this holiday
enlighten the way for oth-ers

Come let’s share the joy of Hanukkah
May our friendship grow
as the candles glow
Oh won’t you
Come and share the joy of Hanukah
And we’ll celebrate as only friends can do.
Happy Hanukah my friend, from me to you
Happy Hanukkah, my friend, from me to you.

Let’s rejoice and be happy – Hava Nagila הבה נגילה

Hava Nagila is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning “Let us rejoice”. Though the melody is an ancient one of folk origin, the commonly used lyrics were written by the Jewish Latvian musicologist, Abraham Zevi ldelsohn, in 1918, to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Declaration (on the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, and British government support for a Jewish national home in Palestine, with the condition that nothing should be done which might prejudice the rights of existing communities there).

Perhaps the non-Jewish musician who did the most to populariseHava Nagila around the world was Harry Belafonte. In his live performances, he used Hava Nagila as his regular closing number because of its uplifting melody and hopeful, brotherly lyrics. His 1959 Carnegie Hall live concert recording became a best-selling record (and one I grew up hearing).

Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice
Let’s rejoice and be happy

Let’s sing
Let’s sing
Let’s sing and be happy

Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake, awake, brothers!
Awake brothers with a happy heart

Awake, brothers!
Awake, brothers!
With a happy heart

====================

בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח
בואו נשמח ונהיה מאושרים

בוא נשיר
בוא נשיר
בואו נשיר ונשמח

ער, ער, אחים!
ער, ער, אחים!
להעיר אחים עם לב שמח

ערים, אחים!
ערים, אחים!
עם לב שמח

 

Israel Small but Outstanding

 

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”

Israel, a small country of outstanding beauty, is so many different things:

It is a bridge between Africa, Asia & Europe, It has pulsating urban life, breathtaking nature, an abundance of plant & animal species, Thousands of years of fascinating history, a rainbow of cultures and traditions.

Israel offers an energizing experience with a vibrant cultural scene, and is proud to be an innovative leader in science & High-Tech.

Sounds too much? you’ll believe it when you see it.

The Story of Passover

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Marketing/Media Writer, Strategist and Consultant

The Story of Passover

Passover is a holiday that celebrates the escape of the Israelites from Egypt in approximately 1225 B.C.E.  The narrative of this adventure is told in the Biblical book of Exodus.

The Israelites had moved down into Egypt as long as 400 years earlier, according to the Bible.  But some scholars suggest that the actual time span was probably closer to 200 years or less, based upon the Biblical genealogies from Joseph (who brought his own family into Egypt) to Aaron (who, with Moses, led the people out of Egypt).

Exodus

Moses leads the Children of Israel through the city gate in this medieval version of the Exodus scene
(from 14th Century Spain, the Kaufman Haggadah).

The Israelites came down to Egypt during a time when a famine was raging in the Biblical Near East.  Egypt had stockpiled food during the seven years of plenty that had preceded the famine.  Joseph, one of the younger sons of the patriarch Jacob (who was also known as Israel) had predicted the years of plenty and the years of famine.  As a result, he had a high position in the court of the Pharaoh.  The Pharaoh welcomed Joseph’s family and settled them in the delta region of Goshen, where they prospered.

For many generations, the Israelites enjoyed the protection of the Pharaohs, who valued their work as shepherds.  However, a Pharaoh eventually came to power who feared the Israelites.  According to the Book of Exodus, this Pharaoh tried to destroy the Israelite population by ordering all male Israelite infants to be killed at birth.  He also required the Israelites to work on large-scale building projects without pay and under terrible working conditions.  The Israelites saw themselves as slaves.

The book of Exodus tells us that God ordered Moses, a young Israelite man who had been raised in the palace of the Pharaoh as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt with the help of his brother Aaron. However, in order to do so, it was necessary for the Pharaoh to agree to the emigration of the Israelite population.  Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”  To which Pharaoh replied, “No.”

A battle of wills ensued between the will of the God of the Israelites and the will of the Pharaoh, who was worshipped as a deity by the Egyptians.  Ten plagues were visited upon the Egyptians, the last of which was the death of the first born of each family.  God told the Israelites to slaughter a lamb as a paschal sacrifice and put the blood of the sacrifice on the doorposts of their homes so that the Angel of Death would pass over them on the night of the tenth plague.

After this night of terror, Pharaoh said that the Israelites could leave Egypt.  Fearful that the Pharaoh would change his mind (which he subsequently did), the Israelites left as quickly as possible.  Because of this, their bread did not have time to rise.

They fled and found themselves standing at the shore of the Red Sea with the Pharaoh’s chariots close behind in pursuit.  God parted the sea for them, and they walked across on dry land.  When the chariots tried to follow, the iron wheels stuck in the soft sand, the waters closed over them, and they drowned.  Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron led the women in dancing and singing in praise to God, who had performed this miracle on their behalf.

God told the Israelites that they should celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt each year with a seven-day festival during which they should eat only unleavened bread.  Two days of this holiday were set aside as special days during which no work was to be done.  The first night of the holiday was to be special and was to include the eating of the Paschal sacrifice (of the lamb), bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, and the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Since very ancient times, Jews all over the world have assembled with family and friends on the night of the 15th of Nisan to celebrate the redemption of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

 

Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City

 By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Marketing/Media Writer, Strategist and Consultant

Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City

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History dominates the Israeli“Palestinian conflict. Selective memories on both sides produce partial narratives that deny or obscure the claims of the other side. The fragmented narrations breed continuing distrust.

Ever since Simha Flapan’s The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (1987), revisionist historians have set out to uncover new facts, upset myths, and rearrange accepted interpretations. The result has been a series of scholarly wars over who has the story right and who offers the best solution for an Israeli“Palestinian future, especially the future of Jerusalem. For within the Arab Middle East, all the dimensions of the Israeli“Palestinian conflict are condensed and symbolized in Jerusalem”and in particular in its walled Old City of 220 acres and thirty“five thousand Jewish, Christian, and Muslim dwellers, where too much history crowds claustrophobic space. Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City by Bernard Wasserstein, a professor of history at the University of Glasgow, is the latest book to wrestle with the extraordinarily complicated set of issues surrounding the city.

Jerusalem today includes the Old City and East Jerusalem, formerly held by Jordan and annexed by Israel in 1967, as well as West Jerusalem and the 1994 western expansion of the municipal borders. The city limits now encircle ninety“four square miles and at least 650,000 inhabitants. Sixty“two percent are Jewish, 38 percent non“Jewish, most of them Arabs. West Jerusalem has been almost bereft of Arabs since 1948; and during the past twenty years, East Jerusalem has been intentionally divided by enclaves of Jews that isolate the city’s eighteen Arab villages and neighborhoods, so that, in the 1982 statement of deputy mayor Shmuel Meir, “No government in the future will be able to give it away.” But despite these hopes, demographic facts show that the city’s fate remains quite unclear. With the Arab minority currently increasing at an annual rate of 3 percent, twice the rate of the the Jewish majority, Arabs are likely to form the majority of voters in Israel’s democratic capital within thirty years.

Wasserstein focuses on the political, religious, social, and demographic history of Jerusalem in order to understand the diplomatic issues surrounding questions of its political future. He takes only two chapters to summarize”quite successfully”the city’s history up to the slow meltdown of the Ottoman Empire in the 1800s, when “the Jerusalem question in its modern form first emerged.”

The author has two theses. First, that “Jerusalem is more than ever a divided city,” in fact, “the most deeply divided capital city in the world.” Thus his second thesis: “The struggle for Jerusalem can be resolved only when there dawns some recognition of the reality and legitimacy of its plural character, spiritually, demographically, and”all claims notwithstanding”politically.”

From the outset, Wasserstein sifts through the divergent religious claims, pieties, and “high emotions” over the city. Its holiness, or lack of it, is “neither a constant or an absolute.” The city’s character waxes and wanes according to economic, cultural, and political influences. In today’s Jeru­ salem, piety easily becomes political, and politics transforms into piety.

Not that antireligious passions are immune from becoming political as well. The early Zionists refused recourse to any divine intervention for the movement towards “a nation like other nations.” A Zionist needed no god to dictate what was ethical or moral. No surprise, then, that initially Orthodox rabbis in Europe and in Jerusalem spurned political Zionism. It was, in their view, an arrogant, solely human endeavor that opposed Yahweh’s eschatological plans for the redemption that will come only when the Messiah chooses to arrive. The required daily prayer, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” encapsulates the Jewish desire to return to the focal point of messianic hopes. The prayer did not imply Jewish sovereignty in a modern state.

In Der Judenstaat (1896), Theodor Herzl proposed Haifa for the capital of the the secular “State of the Jews”” not Jerusalem. For Herzl, Jerusalem was the deposit of “two thousand years of inhumanity and intolerance.” Those who built Tel Aviv on coastal sand dunes in 1909 intended a new city that would be burdened by no religious baggage. By the late 1930s Tel Aviv had become the Jewish center of gravity. It was the base of most political parties and home of nearly all of their leaders. It was the real capital of Zionism. Jerusalem remained the religious center for Jews, Christians, and Muslims”which was a primary reason the British attempted to make it an internationally guaranteed corpus separatum .

 

Eighteen months after Israel declared itself an independent State (May 1948), it proclaimed Jerusalem its capital, despite international opposition. That action inflamed religious passions, especially after the 1967 military occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank”biblical Judaea and Samaria, the heartland of Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel), an event that became for many Jews “the beginning of the flowering of messianic redemption.” In that perspective, Jerusalem, founded by King David, “the chosen City of God” (Psalm 48:2), had been properly restored as capital of Israel.

It should thus come as no surprise that almost all ultra“Orthodox Jews now support the political slogan, “Jeru­ salem should and will remain the unified and eternal capital of the State of Israel, under the absolute sovereignty of Israel alone.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon repeated the statement in his response to Colin Powell’s policy speech (November 19, 2001), which placed Jerusalem on the negotiating table. The current steady exodus of so many not“too“religious Jews from the city in favor of Tel Aviv, and the immigration of so many Israeli and diasporan Orthodox to West and East Jerusalem, has had the effect of radicalizing the city’s politics.

Muslims, for their part, believe Jerusalem to be the third of their holy cities (after Mecca and Medina), and they still call it Al“Quds (The Holy). It is graced by the Al“Haram al“Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary), which the Jews call the Temple Mount. Members of both faiths consider it “the navel of the earth.” Wasserstein skillfully traces the competitive struggle for this most divisive of places, which was once pagan, then Jewish, Roman, Christian, Muslim, again Christian, again Muslim, and now Jewish/Muslim. It was at the Clinton“Barak“Arafat negotiating summit (Camp David, 2000) that President Clinton discovered to his surprise that the main unresolvable issue was the ownership of this small piece of real estate. As Avishai Margarit has asked, how does one divide a symbol?

For Muslim extremists, such as the anti“Arafat Hamas, Allah has given the entire Middle East, which in­ cludes the intrusive “Zionist entity,” as an Islamic trust ( waqf ) for all generations until the day of judgment. Hence their own slogan, “Jerusalem should be forever united solely under Palestinian [read: Islamic] sovereignty.” The extremists would not support the Palestinian Authority’s less radical desire for sovereignty over East Jerusalem, including the Old City. In general, both ultrareligious Jews and Muslims judge that pragmatic bargaining over Jerusalem is a blasphemous act against Yahweh/Allah. Political compromise implies religious appeasement.

If Wasserstein’s book has a flaw it is that he underestimates the theological and political role of Christians in the city. In particular, he has little to say about the long history of Christian anti“Judaism in Jerusalem, which began almost two millennia ago and continued well into the twentieth century. Western and Eastern Christians judged that the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in a.d. 70 and the final expulsion of the Jews in 135 was God’s punishment for their killing of Jesus in that same city. Constantine’s transformed Jeru­ salem symbolized the triumph of Christ and his Church of the New Covenant. The Christian Byzantines continued to leave the Mount in ruins, even using it as a garbage dump. It was not until Omar accepted the surrender of the city in 638 that the esplanade was cleaned up, preparing the way for the building of the Dome of the Rock (691) and the al“Aksa Mosque (705“715).

The same theology and piety helped to justify the Latin Crusaders’ zeal when they captured Jerusalem from the Muslims in 1099. They torched its synagogues along with the Jews they sheltered. Eventually the Templars converted the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque into churches”a Christian triumph over both Jews and Muslims. The annual Palm Sunday procession ascended the Mount, circled the True Cross in the Templum Solomonis (al“Aksa), then the Templum Domini (Dome), before descending to the new “navel of the earth,” the Holy Sepulchre church.

The Jews were also thought to have forfeited their right to a restored homeland as a divine punishment. “They should remain in the dispersion [diaspora, galut ] until the end of the world.” (Thus wrote the Vatican’s semi“official Civilt Cattolica shortly after the first international Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897.) According to his private diary, when Herzl was in Rome to seek Pius X’s good will and support for the Zionist dream and program in January 1904, the Pope replied: “We are unable to support this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews going to Jerusalem, but we could never support it . . . . The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people.”

Today things are very different. The conflictual context of the Holy Land does keep alive remnants of this classical anti“Judaism among Jeru­ salem’s Christians, but it is very minor. And this despite the fact that most contemporary Christians belong to ecclesial communities that have not had a Vatican II and its Nostra Aetate , which officially condemned anti“Semitism. Christians of the Holy Land are very conscious of standing faithfully on the shoulders of almost two millennia of fellow disciples in the Mother Church. This fosters their primary identity, even more so now when they are in eclipse. In the Jerusalem of 1948 the thirty“two thousand Christians made up approximately 19 percent of the population; today, at twelve thousand, they are a mere 2 percent.

Jerusalem Christians today claim only civil rights to religious freedom”the right to retain and staff their holy sites, churches, schools, pilgrim hostels, and other institutions, and to practice and witness their faith. They lament the discrimination they face, not so much as Christians but as non“Jews. They are mostly tax“paying Arab citizens who, like the Muslims but unlike the Jews, do not enjoy their civil right to an equitable share in municipal common resources for education, housing, and other social services, including garbage pickups.

Wasserstein emphasizes the centuries“long internecine divisions between the churches in Jerusalem, focused on control of the holy sites and practices of crude proselytism. But he omits to note that in the last decade a pervading ecumenical spirit and common witness among the laity, clergy, and hierarchs is gradually transcending church divisions. He does not mention, for example, the 1994 common statement on the future of Jerusalem by the three patriarchs (Greek and Armenian Orthodox, and Latin), seven other church leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic Eastern churches, and the Anglican and Lutheran bishops. These local leaders joined the Vatican in proposing for the Old City a special juridical and political statute, permanent and stable, which the international community would guarantee. Jerusalem’s Old City, they declared, “is too precious to be dependent solely on the municipal or national political authorities, whoever they may be””that is, Israeli, Palestinian, or both.

Can the earthly Jerusalem question ever be resolved, or must one settle for the cynical appraisal of Meron Benvenisti: “The torn city is an enigma without a solution”? Wasserstein briefly”and wisely”outlines some of the already over seventy plans that have been proposed for the city. He rules out the idea of sole Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty. Although many of the possible solutions have merit, Wasserstein concludes that “they all look like flimsy jigsaw puzzles to a profound problem of human relations.”

For anyone who seeks a comprehensive descriptive background to the complex problems and high emotions in the struggle for Jerusalem, this book is highly recommended.

 

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Generations of Catastrophe: The Palestinian Problem at Half a Century

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

Generations of Catastrophe: The Palestinian Problem at Half a Century

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Both in the Arab world and diaspora, Arabs are remembering what they refer to in Arabic as al-nakba, the “uprooting” and the “catastrophe” that befell the Palestinians when Israel was carved out of their homeland in 1948. –

Arab-Israeli peace accords aside, Arabs are still mourning, and as at most funerals, tradition prohibits comments which offend the mourners. But the tragic irony of the case is that there is more than one funeral in progress; more than one catastrophe to mark in solemn remembrance. Therefore, we must violate established customs by suggesting that the catastrophe of 1948 has produced other catastrophes in the Arab world, throwing Arab culture into a state of paranoia, opening the doors of Arab politics to ruthless forms of dictatorships, and laying Arab economies to waste. –

The psychological disorder afflicting Arab cultural life since 1948 has not been healed by any peace agreement, as Arab intellectuals continue to bombard each other with charges of “sleeping with the enemy.” Most recently, a pro-Palestinian group in Lebanon decided to remember al-nakba through poetry, music, and panels featuring Jewish intellectuals born in the Arab world. But an orchestrated campaign of extreme nationalist Lebanese and Palestinian groups succeeded in canceling the panel, although the Jewish participants were a Moroccan author, an Egyptian psychologist, a Lebanese journalist, all known for their uncompromising support of the Palestinians.

In 1997, Lutfi al-Kholi, a prominent Egyptian progressive intellectual, attended a conference in Copenhagen, meeting Europeans, Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis, all on the left or the liberal side of the political spectrum. When he returned to Egypt, he was ostracized even by the best of his friends, accused as an accomplice in the process of al-tatbi, meaning normalization of economic and cultural relations with the Israeli state. Al-Kholi remains under dark clouds.

The words of playwright Sadallah Wannous, uttered seven months before his death on the 49th anniversary of al-nakba, articulates much of the pains Arab intellectuals go through as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict. “Israel stole my age, wasted much of my capacities, and made me live in a time where talking about the beauty of a tree is a crime, because it means the silence on many crimes,” Wannous said in an interview with Syrian director Omar Amiralli, published in An Nahr Cultural Supplement. “I believe Israel, and I say it literally and not metaphorically, has stolen the beautiful years of my life, and has spoiled, for a man who has lived 50 years, much of the joy, and squandered much of his abilities.”

Even one of the Arab world’s most distinguished intellectuals has come under attack. Ali Ahmad Said, who goes by the pen name Adonis, is perhaps the most creative living Arab literary figure, often discussed as a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet recently he has been ostracized by zealot Arab intellectuals for attending a 1995 conference in Spain which included Arab and Israeli intellectuals. He is also accused of being an advocate of al-tatbi. Thus, an intellectual “state of war” drags on in a region where the number of illiterates has risen from 58 million in 1982 to 61 million in 1990; and it is expected to rise to 66 million by the year 2000.

Arab nations and politics were quite embryonic when catastrophe befell the Palestinians in 1948. Still fragile political institutions fell prey to the logic of war and military leadership. Preparations for war altogether supplanted political purposes. Thus, throughout the 1950s and 60s, officer factions took turns overthrowing civilian governments, then moved against each other in coup upon counter coup. By the time this struggle stabilized in the early 1970s, the flagrant violation of basic individual rights had become a fact of life. Decades of oppression, coupled with a greater command of the art of control, normalized fear, producing mass obedience to the state.

This domination appears to have fostered a sense of confidence and even arrogance in the governments, especially in Syria and Iraq. Feeling secure at home, Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976; Iraq invaded Iran in1980, and Kuwait in 1990. The Syrian presence in Lebanon ended any semblance of democracy in that country, while the destruction wrought by Saddam Hussein on the peoples of Iran and Kuwait has been immeasurable. Both Assad of Syria and Hussein of Iraq used the 1948 catastrophe to justify their military adventures; Syria came to Lebanon to defend that country against Israel and Saddam went to Kuwait to unify the Arab world to face Israel.

‘We are third-class citizens,’ says Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

By Mihran Kalaydjian, CHA

‘We are third-class citizens,’ says Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

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‘If Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide it won’t be the end of the world,’ says the new head of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem, which dates back to the 4th century.  It might even help making the community feel less cut off from the rest of the city and country.

On a recent afternoon in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Armenian Patriarchate’s new leader was treated as royalty. Black-robed priests and pilgrims young and old, visiting from Armenia, snapped photos and grinned excitedly, as they waited in line to kiss Archbishop Nourhan Manougian’s hand during a reception.

Elected the 97th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem in January, Manougian is now one of the top Armenian Christian leaders worldwide, in a community scattered over the globe. In Jerusalem, where the Armenian Christian presence dates back almost 1,700 years, he is also one of the most powerful Christian clerics. The Armenian patriarch shares oversight at the ancient Christian holy sites with the Greek Orthodox and Latin ‏(Roman Catholic‏) patriarchs.

But despite the historical presence, the tiny Old City Armenian community often feels sidelined, Manougian told media sources. As the number of community members relentlessly shrinks, and is now only a few hundred, he worries if there will be future generations. Day-to-day life, he says, is also a balancing act, finding a place between the powerful Jewish Israeli and Muslim Palestinian communities. Israeli scholars echo the same concerns.

At the core of Armenian insecurities are successive Israeli governments that have ruled over them since 1967 but never officially acknowledged the 1915 Armenian genocide or its estimated 1.5 million deaths by Ottoman Turkish forces.

Many of Jerusalem’s Armenians, including Manougian, are the children and grandchildren of the survivors of the genocide. His father fled Armenia through the desert that became known as the “death fields,” as he headed to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Born in Aleppo in 1948 and orphaned by age 5, Manougian grew up in that city, with poor relatives and the stories of the survivors around him. After seminary and ordination, serving Armenian Christians took him from Lebanon, across Europe and the United States, and to Haifa, Jaffa and finally in 1998, to Jerusalem.

Here, Armenians believe that Israel’s silence on the events of 1915 is based on maintaining favor with Turkey. “If you ask me, [recognizing the genocide] is what they have to do,” said Manougian of Israel. “What if they accept it? It won’t be the end of the world.”

Manougian also felt marginalized by Israel, while waiting five months for the state to officially recognize his title. Manougian was elected after the 2012 death of Patriarch Torkom Manoogian. Palestinian and Jordanian leaders recognized him days after the January election. Israel did not do so until June 23.

Initially, the patriarchate postponed Manougian’s inauguration, waiting for Israel to reorganize the government following its January 22 elections. But as months passed and the recognition application continued to be ignored, the patriarchate on June 4 held the inauguration anyway.

There is no law requiring it, but sending a formal letter of recognition is a Holy Land tradition dating to the Ottoman era, Manougian said. “The first [Israeli] letter was signed by Ben-Gurion.”

Old City Armenians live more closely with the Palestinians and say their relations with them are better than with official Israel or some of their Jewish neighbors. Bishop Aris Shirvanian says that “they don’t spit on us,” referring to a phenomenon sometimes encountered by Christian clergy in the Old City.

“We have no legal problems with them,” said Bishop Aris Shirvanian. But the Palestinians have also not recognized the Armenian genocide. “The whole of the Islamic countries do not recognize the genocide because Turks are Muslims,” he said.

Being Christian in Jerusalem is complicated, he added. “When you are dealing with two sides [Israelis and Palestinians], you have to not take one side against the other.”

First to adopt Christianity

Armenians have a long, continuous presence in the city, from at least the fourth century, after Armenia was the first nation in 301 C.E. to adopt Christianity as its official faith, said Yoav Loeff, a Hebrew University teacher of Armenian language and history.

Until World War I, most of the Armenians here were monks or other church people. After the war, the numbers in Jerusalem grew, as Armenians fled the genocide and developed a vibrant lay community here. There were also artisans who came to the city in 1919 under the patronage of the British Mandate to renovate the vividly decorated ceramic tiles on the Dome of the Rock. Their craft of hand-painting tiles and ceramics deeply influenced Jerusalem’s artistic heritage. This can be seen still today on signs and architectural facades, and in the pottery in Israeli and Palestinian homes. ‏The patriarchate also opened a photography studio here in the 1850s, and the period portraits done by some of its photographers are still renowned.‏

Until the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, local Armenians lived mostly in Jerusalem, with some in Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle and Ramallah too, numbering about 25,000 in total, Manougian says. While the majority fled the war to surrounding areas − Ramallah, Jordan, Lebanon − a few thousand ended up in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter. But with growing economic and political tensions and lack of opportunities, most left over the years.

There are no official statistics, but historians estimate that there are some 3,000 people of Armenian descent in Israel, but most do not identify with the community, coming from the former Soviet Union and having married Jews.

The community’s center of life today is in the Armenian Quarter, which has an elementary school, middle school, high school, a seminary, the 12th-century St. James Cathedral, the Church of the Holy Archangels, and the Armenian manuscript library. But barely 400 Armenians live there now, down from around 1,500 in 1967, said Manougian.

“I’m afraid that if things go on like this, there won’t be any Christians left in this country,” he said, alluding to the wider phenomenon of an ongoing exodus of Christians of all denominations from the Holy Land. The city and state are not helping Armenians to flourish, he added. “Nobody knows anything about Armenia or Armenians … It’s not even on the list of their [concerns]. We don’t belong to the community − they don’t [accept] us as members. We are third-class citizens.”

Fueling this feeling are occasional spitting incidents. Last Year, for example, an Orthodox Jewish man spat at the feet of patriarch Manougian, during a procession of senior church clergy as they walked toward the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Bishop Shirvanian, who was present, said that such spitting incidents have declined during the past year, but “you never know when it will happen while walking down the street …. Most Jews are respectful, but some of the ultra-Orthodox are obstinately spitting.”

Freedom of movement in and out of the Old City is also unpredictable. Nestled inside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the Armenian Quarter relies on the Jaffa Gate for access to the rest of the city.

” ‘We are third-class citizens,’ says Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem

‘If Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide it won’t be the end of the world,’ says the new head of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem, which dates back to the 4th century.  It might even help making the community feel less cut off from the rest of the city and country.”

 

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.”

Western Wall in Jerusalem

Western Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (Hebrew: About this sound הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי (help·info), translit.: HaKotel HaMa’aravi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel; Arabic: حائط البراق‎, translit.: Ḥā’iṭ Al-Burāq, translat.: The Buraq Wall) is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but recent excavations indicate that the works were not finished during Herod’s lifetime. The remaining layers were added from the 7th century onwards. The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.

It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th century. From the mid-19th century onwards, attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate area were made by various Jews, but none was successful. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Jews were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967 and three days later bulldozed the adjacent 770 year old Moroccan Quarter.[1]

The Mount of Olives – Jerusalem

The Mount of Olives - Jerusalem

“Mount Olivet” redirects here. For other uses, see Mount Olivet (disambiguation).

The Mount of Olives or Mount Olivet (Hebrew: הַר הַזֵּיתִים, Har HaZeitim; Arabic: جبل الزيتون, الطور‎, Jabal az-Zaytūn, Aț-Țūr) is a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to the Jerusalem’s Old City.[1] It is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The southern part of the Mount was the necropolis of the ancient Judean kingdom.[2] The Mount is central to Jewish tradition since it has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds approximately 150,000 graves.[3] Several key events in the life of Jesus as related in the Gospels took place on the Mount of Olives, and in the Book of Acts it is described as the place from which Jesus ascended to heaven. Because of its association with both Jesus and Mary, the Mount has been a site of Christian worship since ancient times and is today a major site of Christian pilgrimage for Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians.