“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
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.
“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.
Rosh Hashanah: Not the New Years You Thought It Was
If Rosh Hashanah could be summed up in one word, that word would be; love, potential, and life. (Okay, so that’s three words, what are you going to do?)
Let’s take a look at each of these words and reflect on their meaning in the context of Rosh Hashanah. Follow me:
If you have heard anything about Rosh Hashanah, what you have probably heard is either that it is the “Jewish New Years” or that it is the Day of Judgment. Well, I’m here to tell you that while both are true, they are also very misunderstood. Let’s consider the notion of judgment. The truth is, the prospect of judgment is very uncomfortable and nobody likes to be judged. We don’t like to be judged by a boss, a teacher, and certainly not by our peers. At the same time, there is a very beautiful dimension to judgment. Think about parents and children. Parents are concerned about, and judge, a whole range of items related to their children. Parents are concerned about their children’s grades in school, what kind of lunch they have, what kinds of friends they associate with, what websites they frequent, and a lot more. From the child’s perspective, this can seem a bit intrusive, but the truth is, there is only one reason why parents are so interested in virtually every detail of their children’s lives: it’s because they deeply love their children. In fact, one of the most devastating things a parent can do to a child is not to judge. Why? Because a parent who isn’t interested in what their child is doing is sending a message that says clearly—“I don’t care about you.” A child who hears such a message will inevitably draw the conclusion that they are not worth their parents attention, and that, is about the most destructive message a child can absorb.
On Rosh Hashanah, when we say that God “sits in judgment” what we are saying is that God loves us: He cares about each and every one of us, He cares about who we are, how we live, and whether or not we are actualizing the potential He gave us. That the creator of the universe actually cares about “little ‘ol me” is a remarkably empowering and life-giving idea. The reality that we confront on Rosh Hashanah is one that highlights the intrinsic value and preciousness of every life in the eyes of God.
On Passover we celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, on Chanukah we celebrate the defeat of the Greeks and the miracle of the oil. Did you ever wonder what we are celebrating on Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the first human being. The Jewish year begins with focusing on the awesome nature and potential that exists within each of us. When you look at the world around you, it’s clear that God is not only quite powerful, but very, very creative. That being the case, God could have launched Mankind with a family, a village or a whole planet filled with people: why did He begin with just one person? Jewish tradition teaches that God began with one person to teach us about the fantastic potential inherent in each of us. Each of us has the ability to have an impact on the entire world and each of us is capable of making a world of difference. As we stand at the threshold of a new year we ask ourselves some simple questions: “What can I do in the coming year to actualize more of my potential?” “How can I contribute, even in a small way, to making the world a better place?” “What can I do to make a difference in someone else’s life?”
Every Rosh Hashanah represents a vote of confidence from God in our individual, personal potential. Every Rosh Hashanah also presents us with a fresh opportunity to unlock more and more of that great God-given gift.
Throughout the Rosh Hashanah prayers, we ask God to “Remember us for life” and “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” When we greet one another we say “May you have a good year, and may you be written and sealed for a year of good life and peace.”
Our prayers for life are meant to be understood at face value—we want to live—but they also have a deeper meaning. Consider this: I once met a Holocaust survivor who said, “I would choose to go through all those years in Auschwitz again rather than spend one day of my life as a Nazi.” That is an incredible statement, and what it means, I believe, is this: one can be alive, strong, and healthy yet be “dead” at the same time. A life lived in the boots of a Nazi, or under the flag of Al-Qaida or Hezbollah, is a life utterly drained of all meaning. You see, there are certain choices that we make, and certain courses of action that we pursue, that have the ability to infuse life with “life,” and there are others that drain life of everything God intended it for. On Rosh Hashanah, we not only ask for life, we strive to be people who embrace the kinds of values, ideals, and choices that will fill our days with life: With meaning, with goodness, with spirituality—with life!
I would like to wish all of you a Shana Tova, a good sweet year, health and happiness for the entire world. Happy Rosh Hashanah and Happy New Year to you and all of Israel with a sweet new year- a new beginning. May the Lord bless you and keep you Shalom
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).
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.
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.
Generations of Catastrophe: The Palestinian Problem at Half a Century
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
‘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.”
“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. 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. 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. 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.
As Turkish PM boasts over apology over unnecessary loss of life on the ‘Mavi Marmara,’ a senior official says if diplomacy does not work, all will see Israel “went the extra mile” to show Jerusalem can be a “team player.”
Jerusalem hopes its apology to Ankara for mistakes that might have led to the unnecessary loss of life on the Mavi Marmara turns the page in relations with Turkey, but if it does not, one official said, everyone will see “that Israel went the extra mile.”
The official’s comments came even as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to “rub Israel’s nose” in the apology, claiming it now makes Turkey a major player in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
Although the official refrained from specifying who he had in mind when saying that “everyone” would see that Israel did its part to mend fences, the US had for months been pushing for an Israeli-Turkish rapprochement, arguing that this was supremely important to American efforts to cope with the radically changing Middle East.
In addition to US President Barack Obama, who brokered the phone call between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Erdogan, and who expressed support for the efforts at healing the Israeli-Turkish rift, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Netanyahu since Friday to welcome what Merkel called the “understandings” between Turkey and Israel.
One senior diplomatic official said that finding a way to put the Mavi Marmara incident behind Israel and Turkey was an important demonstration to the US that Jerusalem could act as a “team player.”
Cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser downplayed Turkey’s “celebrations” over the apology, saying Wednesday on Israel Radio that this was not important.
“The bottom line is that there was a central interest in taking this issue off the agenda between the two countries in light of the changing realities in the Middle East and what is happening in Syria,” he said.
There is no doubt that proper Israeli-Turkish ties are “not only an interest for the two countries, but it is also an American interest,” Hauser added, saying there was no reason for Israel not to work in coordination with Washington regarding US ties in the region.
Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic security bureau, told Israel Radio that the US was very keen that its allies in the region cooperate to help Washington cope with the changing landscape, from Tehran to Damascus.
When asked about Erdogan’s boasts, Gilad said it was important to distinguish between the “foam and the wave.” He said that there had been a clear agreement between Israel and Turkey, and that the focus should be on the agreement, not on Turkish comments about it.
Ankara’s acquiescence to stop legal proceedings against the IDF soldiers was at the “heart” of the agreement, he said.
Israeli officials would not relate to reports of differences in the sum Israel was willing to pay the families of the nine Turks killed on the Mavi Marmara, saying the technical teams set up to discuss the matter had not yet met, and that it was premature to talk about details of the compensation package.
The Turkish daily Hurriyet reported Wednesday that Erdogan had told parliament a day earlier that the Israeli apology changed the overall equation in the Middle East.
“The point we have arrived at as a result of our consultations with all our brothers in Palestine and peripheral countries is increasing our responsibility with regard to solving the Palestinian question and thus is bringing about a new equation,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.”
This swagger was largely dismissed by one official in Jerusalem, who said that while Israel was happy for parties to promote peace, “four hours were spent Saturday night on the Palestinian issue with the Americans, and that is where the focus is. There are serious efforts underway to restart the talks, and the best thing would be to support those efforts.” •