<style>.post-37400 .entry-title{color: }</style>311
<style>.post-37400 .entry-title{color: }</style>311
<style>.post-37400 .entry-title{color: }</style>311

Woof Woof

By Kegham Balian

Today, we, Jerusalemite Armenians, open our own bastars, our own kiosks. And we sell our own perspective: Each and every one of us, entitled to a mind prison crafted out of our own volition, yet we confuse it for a high tower – we sneer at our peers, failing to see our gaping wounds, when our scars are mutual.
“Are the dogs gone?” asked Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, referring to the Armenians who protested the treacherous leasing of our Goverou Bardez – a parking lot that makes up about 25 percent of the entire Armenian Quarter and is the backbone of our day-to-day communal life – to a businessman with alleged ties to Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli Jewish organization whose sole purpose is to complete the full Judaization of the Old City of Jerusalem. Yet, we are the dogs.

Some of the Armenian community gathering outside the entrance of the Patriarchate protesting the land deal.
Photo by Hagop Djernazian.

Recent developments have further revealed that residential areas and the Armenian Theological Seminary are allegedly also at risk of encroachment. In an absurdly ironic display,  the seminary’s graduating class sang “Jerusalem of Gold” during the ceremony that was attended by the Patriarch and other high-ranking members of the St. James Brotherhood. Nothing says Armenian Christian like “a ram’s horn calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City.” Yet, we are the dogs.The theme of this issue is “The Challenges of Living in Al-Quds.” We can talk about a lack of tolerance: spitting on our convent gate has become a daily ritual for passing zealots. We can talk about communal violence: my friends and I, as well as my brother were harassed and pepper-sprayed by Jewish extremists only a few months ago. We can talk about external gripes beyond our control till Kingdom come, but our deepest issue lies within our eroded core: we value others more than our own. We value other customs and other traditions more than our own because we have forgotten our own. Only money matters, and that avarice is mirrored back to the community.“I have three kids to support; where will I go if our safety here is threatened? I can’t afford to live outside the Vunk!” said a concerned parent.“I’d rather sell my house to the highest bidder than have it confiscated by the Patriarchate!” said another. Music to the ear of settlers.This mentality is spreading within the community, and who the hell am I to tell a father and a mother to hold the line, to resist, when I’ve never held a child that is mine? Where do we draw the line between patriotism and survival? It is easy to encourage bravery, but far more often, we are animated by worry. We always worry: Armenia, Artsakh, Jerusalem. We always worry whilst our Armenian brothers and sisters, far braver than we are, pay for our worries with their lives. And this, in turn, breeds apathy within us – self-hatred born of complacency. We extend our pain outwards and plead for visibility. History spits back. And we come running back for more. How far have we fallen to fetter our indignation? Voices and words are whisked into irrelevance over time. I read the words of this article, and I hate myself for it being just that.Akh.Akh.Akh…

For argument’s sake, let’s suppose that the prevailing message of the Armenian Patriarchate is true: Khatchig Yeretzian, the defrocked priest and former real estate director, duped the Patriarch into signing this deal.

Armenians protestingthe sale of their land. Photo by Hagop Djernazian.

Why on earth would you let him leave without impunity? Exile isn’t punishment for a person of Yeretzian’s ilk; it is freedom. He now resides in the United States, where he can comfortably smoke his 300-dollar cigars and lavishly spend the money he amassed from his shady dealings over more than a decade. Khatchig is right, though. He is being scapegoated. But that doesn’t even remotely imply his innocence, as he seems to think.

The orange-colored section within the shaded area is the part that the Israeli settlers will control.

We are being taken for fools, and now we find ourselves potentially sandwiched between two yeshivas – one near Jaffa Gate, the other in our own backyard – that seek to establish a Jewish extremist supremacy in the Holy Land.

Whatever happened to a priest’s moral obligation? If the Patriarch erred, he could’ve released a simple statement, a video, anything, asking for the people’s forgiveness – a gesture in good faith, if nothing more. A sign that he is a man who shares our pain and, indeed, a man, too. But no, we are the dogs.

The area within the white lines is the part that the Israeli settlers will control.

There is a Jewish proverb that states: “If you want to build a country, bring one Armenian. If you want to destroy it, bring another.” Between the tongue-browning aficionados, the protestors, and the clergy, we have ample room for that. Let’s keep on guarding our bastars, our kiosks; dialogue is overrated.

We are tired. We are all very, very tired. But we are loyal, like dogs, unlike some.


  1. sylvie tertzakian

    excellent article! we are no dogs, the latter are the clergy who have no moral compass!

  2. Nora Der-Bedrossian

    Thank you Kegham Balian for such great article about the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem. It shouldn’t pain us as Armenians of Jerusalem to be called “dogs” by our ex patriarch, Nourhan Manougian. In fact, it is an honour to be called dogs by our holy father because dogs are the most loyal animals to humans. A dog will sacrifice his life to save his master from danger. Dogs are very loving animals who never forget their master when they return from a long absence. What should pain us is that our ex patriarch who avowed when ordained as priest to serve God and the community by living a life of poverty, celibacy, obedience, has failed in fulfilling his duties by selling our monastic properties to support his lavish lifestyle. Ex patriarch Nourhan Manougian only loves himself that he would sell church properties that have been our home of worship for over 1400 years.


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