Two young Armenians were detained by the Israeli police, and several others were injured, some of them seriously, during an attack carried out by dozens of Jewish extremists in a disputed area of Jerusalem on the evening of December 28. The grounds belong to the Armenian Patriarchate but have become a target for settlers and a controversial entrepreneur. In this case, as has happened before, the Christian community is doubly victimized: first by the shocking assault that left people injured and arrested, and then by the subsequent intervention of the Israeli police, which tends to punish the victims rather than the perpetrators of violence.
According to the Movement for the Protection and Preservation of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, after an “attack” by “armed men” in the area known as the “Cow Garden,” “two young Armenians were arrested” and on December 29 were “taken to court. They will have lawyers – the movement’s statement continues – who will represent them during the judicial process.” Activists appeal to the Armenian Patriarchate to do everything possible, using its connections with the police, municipality, and government, to secure the “immediate release of the unfairly detained young people.”
Local sources report that over 30 masked “provocateurs,” some of them armed, attacked Armenian bishops, priests, deacons, and worshipers in the Old City of Jerusalem. Images and videos of the coordinated and massive attack circulate on the internet and social media. The note sent by the Armenian Patriarchate to the government and the police describes it as deliberate, with “several priests, students, and Armenian faithful from the area” being seriously injured. “We were deliberately attacked,” accuses Bishop Koryoun Baghdasaryan, director of the Real Estate Department of the Patriarchate, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post (JP). Chancellor Aghan Gogchyan stated that the attackers used pepper spray and other chemicals against seminary students, many of whom had to be taken to the hospital.
In a letter to the Israeli government and police, the Armenian patriarchate described the attack as “mass and coordinated” in which “Several priests, students, and indigenous Armenians [were] seriously injured”.
“They attacked us,” Bishop Koryoun Baghdasaryan, director of the Real Estate Department for the Patriarchate, told the Post.
According to Armenian Patriarchate Chancellor Aghan Gogchyan, the attackers used pepper spray and other chemicals against seminary students, several of whom were taken to hospital.
According to Armenian community leaders, the attack is connected to a lawsuit against an ongoing property grab. They blame a group of 30 extremist Israeli settlers who were dressed in black with ski masks, carrying weapons.
Shortly before 1 pm, the attackers arrived armed with sticks, stones, and tear-gas grenades in another attempt to violently remove the Armenian community from the area. Armenians fought the Jewish settlers until the police arrived.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum offered a different version of events, one bordering on the absurd.
Calling the attack an “unfortunate incident”, she blamed “some Arab Muslim men” who “got into a brawl” with “some men from the Armenian community”, adding that “Police came promptly to separate the parties, and arrests were made on both sides.”
Jerusalem’s Armenian community has been embroiled in a controversy over the sale of property in the Old City of Jerusalem, which has created a deep internal rift.
The issue began when a mysterious Australian Jewish developer, Danny Rothman (Daniel Rubenstein), was able to lease part of the Armenian Quarter for 99 years, virtually confiscating it from the community.
The “traitor” who mediated and signed the deed is Baret Yeretzian, former director of the Patriarchate’s Real Estate Office, now in “exile.”
He was aided and abetted by Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Archbishop Sevan Gharibian, and developer Danny Rothman who plans to build a luxury hotel at the site.
The affair has also affected the Armenian Patriarchate, whose primate is now distrusted by the community, with many members calling for his resignation, while Jordan and Palestine no longer recognise his authority.
The affair broke out last May, but the lease agreement was signed in great secrecy in July 2021. The 99-year lease includes the area called “Cow’s Garden”, now used as a parking lot for people going to the Wailing Wall.
Its use by Jews has provoked the wrath of Armenians, who have been fighting since 2021 to regain full control.
The contract covers other properties as well: four Armenian homes, the Boulghourji restaurant, stores, and the Tourianashen buildings on Jaffa Road, outside the Old City.
The controversy has touched even the Abraham Accords, since one of the companies involved is One&Only, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).