17 January 2024, The Tablet

No quarter in Jerusalem

Property crisis

No quarter in Jerusalem

Armenians protest over a controversial land deal that would displace local residents
Alamy/AP, Maya Alleruzzo


A shrinking population and an unpopular plan to allow a developer to build a luxury hotel on land leased from the Patriarch has led to fears that after 1,600 years the Armenian community may be driven out of the Old City

It might seem a little surreal, as a December Friday dusk begins to envelop Jerusalem’s twelfth-century Cathedral of St James, to be discussing with three Armenians born and bred in the city the spiritual and cultural significance of a car park. Or it would be if the local, regional and global implications of what they fear is going to happen to it were not so grave. It’s easy to think of the trio as informal lay elders (though they would hate the description) of a community which has existed here in some form for more than 1,600 years. And as the world focuses on Gaza, they are dispensing coffee in a makeshift timber and tarpaulin shelter which marks the front line against what they see as a rapidly mounting – and occasionally violent – threat. At stake is the very existence of an ancient community centred on the south-west corner of the Old City. The thousand or so Armenians living here are convinced that not only property developers but extremist Israeli settlers want them out for good.


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