Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate Must Be Monitored, Protected by The Armenian Nation
Posted on September. 12. 2021
BY APPO JABARIAN Executive Publisher / Managing Editor USA Armenian Life Magazine (English-language print edition) USA Armenian Life E-Newsletter (Electronic Distribution — e-blast) Hye Kiank Armenian Weekly (Armenian-language print edition) USA Armenian LifeFACEBOOK www.armenianlife.com
In December, 2020 a group of Jerusalemites including Armenians, other Christians and Palestinians staged a protest expressing serious concerns over questionable lease deals between the Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate and the Israeli authorities and/or private parties. Several international news organizations reported that the demonstrators were protesting against the selling of church land to Israelis, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. An unknown deal will turn the land called “Goveroun Bardez” — located in the historic Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem and owned by the Armenian Patriarchate — into a parking lot is causing concern for the world Armenians. According to an agreement that took effect on Jan. 1, 2021, the “Goveroun Bardez” will turn into a parking lot — largely for the exclusive use of Jewish residents of the old city. Officials of the Armenian Patriarchate confirmed the agreement but insisted that the contract with the Israeli Jerusalem municipality and the Jewish-centric Jerusalem Development Authority (Harali) does not constitute selling or leasing land but is simply a ‘financial operation.’ Misrepresentation by The Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate officials or verbal gymnastics on the so-called “financial operation”?
A 2018 article in timesofisrael.com sheds light on the term ‘financial operation’: “While the Greek Patriarchate has finished selling land for the time being, others, such as the Catholics and Armenians, fear that the legislation could deter future potential buyers, should they also wish to sell, severely impacting their freedom of financial operation. Now the reader can see clearly that the Armenian Patriarchate’s term “financial operation” really means to actually sell off lands that are the property of an entire Armenian nation. Another Misrepresentation by The Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate officials on the so-called 99-year Lease? Think again! The 2018 article in timesofisrael.com continues to shed light: “The lease contracts approved by the Greek Patriarchate give the KKL JNF Jewish National Fund the right to extend the leases when they end in 2051 and 2052 — in the case of one contract for 49 years, and in the case of the other two, for periods to be negotiated, of up to 100 years. They also spell out the mechanism for arbitration should the KKL and the Greek landowners fail to agree on a price.” But Nava Bat-Zur, a co-founder of the main organization set up to fight for leaseholders’ rights, said “We’re not interested in dragging out this issue. We want to own the land and it’s the government that should buy it.” The lease renewal is no longer an option that would satisfy the Israelis. They are actively looking for ways to buy the leased lands through their national or local governments. Yet another misrepresentation by The Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate officials? The Armenian Patriarchate claimed that “removal of all earth from the plot of land, which will cost about $2 million,” was “a financial obligation that the Patriarchate by itself doesn’t have the capacity to undertake,” according to a statement by the real estate department of the Armenian Patriarchate. A Dec. 19, 2020 article in arabnews.com stated that “the Palestinian/Armenian source denied claims that the church had no choice but to go to the Israelis after repeated requests for financial support from the Palestinian government and others were turned down: ‘This is not true. The EU was interested in fixing the parking lot in a way that would allow its parking lot income to support the church while allowing all the people of the old city to use it but the church refused the offer.’”
A 10-point official statement issued by the real estate department of the Armenian Patriarchate states that the parking lot will remain private and that the management, ownership of the parking lot will remain in the hands of the Patriarchate.
The statement also highlights that “within the next 10 years, once the Patriarchate has finalized and received all construction permits, in agreement with the municipality, the Patriarchate will begin a new construction that will benefit the Armenian community.” The Patriarchate is hoping to get permission to build a hotel.
Keghart.org wrote last week: “Patriarch Manougian seems to be under the misapprehension that the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem belongs to him, and that he can do anything on matters related to the status of that oldest and most sacred Armenian Diaspora land. For his own good, he should be disabused of that false notion. He is the 97th steward of the Armenian real estate of that Holy Land, a temporary mandate entrusted to him by the Armenian Apostolic Church and its community in the City of Jerusalem. In fact, the Armenian Quarter and other ‘Patriarchate-owned’ real estate don’t even belong to the Armenian Church or to the St. James Brotherhood. They are the possessions of the Armenian nation. Every last inch of Holy Land Armenian property was purchased through the donations of Armenian pilgrims, nobility, kings, and charitable organizations over a millennium. Twice in recent centuries, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem was bankrupt and was close to losing all its real estate. It was rescued by Armenian merchants and regular Armenian patriots.”
Keghart.org continued: “Every inch of the Holy Land falls under strict local and international laws hence no one has the right to split up that one entity into different trading parts. The lawless Patriarch should convene the St. James Brotherhood’s Synod which, according to reliable sources, would reject the illegal lease signed by the Patriarch along with his right-hand man Rev. Baret Yeretsian, and under duress by Archbishop Sevan Gharibian.”
Realistically speaking, this may not be the last such scandal affecting Armenian national treasures in Jerusalem, Armenia and Diaspora.
As long as such institutions as Jerusalem Armenian Patriarchate, Mekhitarist Fathers’ Order, Constantinople Armenian Patriarchate, Great House of Cilicia, Holy See of Etchmiadzin become dysfunctional either because of lack of transparency, accountability and democratic oversight, The Armenian Nation will be exposed to many more losses. They all must be monitored, protected by the Armenian nation.
The world Armenians have no choice but to start dealing firmly with corrupt and self-serving individuals at the helm of various Armenian institutions including the Armenian Church in order to make them understand that they cannot do away with the Armenian people’s national treasures at their personal whims; and that they will be held accountable for any misappropriations or mismanagement.