If Israel Recognizes the Armenian Genocide It Won’t Be The End Of The World, Jerusalem Patriarch Says

Jerusalem Patriarch Archbishop Nourhan Manougian

JERUSALEM—“If Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide it won’t be the end of the world,” Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Nourhan Manougian told Lauren Gelfond Feldinger of Haaretz in an interview published on Friday.

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 Haaretz. 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.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson did not give a reason for the delay. But Dr. Amnon Ramon, a HebrewUniversity and Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies expert on local Christians, said that his impression was that the delay was caused by bureaucracy and lack of priority. In researching his 2012 book, “Christians and Christianity in the Jewish State” ‏(in Hebrew, published by the JIIS‏), he found that Israel’s relations with Christians and church institutions are among the lowest priorities in policy and practice of the local and national government bodies, he said.

While Ramon works on improving government relations with Christians, he also encourages Christians, including Armenians, not to allow caution to stop them from lobbying for their own needs. Christians “have to look at the Israeli side, the Palestinian side, be very cautious, and sometimes this leads them to inaction.”

OldCity 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 OldCity.

“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.”


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  1. Hratch said:

    It’s funny how we’re fighting to stay Armenian and demanding our rights while living in other people’s land. What is it that we’re trying to achieve? When Israel was created in 1948 most Jews in the middle east migrated there to develop and maintain their nation. Albeit, most were forced out but the majority moved voluntarily to help cultivate and build their homeland. Others who migrated to the US and South America also contributed through REAL financial and political support. We Armenians are fighting tooth and nail to maintain our communities in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jerusalem. But for what purpose? These weak countries are not in any position to support Armenia through financial or political means. They are just convenient places to park our identity and meager existence. There is no end purpose to this game. We will never achieve anything by languishing in these countries. At a certain point, the political landscape will change and we will find ourselves scrambling again. (as in the case of Iraq, Syrian & Lebanon).

    It seems most Armenians do not want to sacrifice and inconvenience themselves by relocating to Armenia. They would rather fantasize about returning to Aleppo or Baghdad to continue their meager existence. The tide is against us. No country or nation will tolerate a foreign group forever, sooner or later we will encounter problems and be forced to either integrate or migrate again. A lose lose situation however way we look at it.

    And Armenia should do their part in extending a hand to ALL diaspora Armenians, with out discrimination or labeling. If we can not trust or rely on our own nation for salvation, then we have nothing to complain about when living in other countries.

  2. ARA said:

    They have a nerve not too- but see what they do- they protect themselves- they do NOT need us-they want the stage= we hear enough about them and the rest is well known-we are not against them-but in no way shape or form are they our friend-not in the past 800 years- get along yeah-but who the heck is fooling anybody- the Nazi’s did a job on many including them-look at the stage they steal- our history is rich- screw them

  3. Hagop said:

    Bravo to the Archbishop for speaking up. Unfortunately, he is not the first and likely not the last to do so (although hopefully so). For those who are unfamiliar, http://www.genocidewatch.org/genocide/8stagesofgenocide.html is an important website to visit and learn from. Israeli leadership should know well and recognize that the 8th stage of genocide, denial, “is among the surest indicators of [the occurrence of] further genocidal massacres.” The Israeli people already know this, the government is simply lagging in its inert and sadly immoral diplomatic policy.

  4. Aymara said:

    It is a tragedy that Christian numbers are shrinking in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab-Muslim world. Islamic fundamentalists wish for a land free of churches and synagogues, or with Christian and Jewish religious minorities that are so fatigued and demoralized that they are subservient, vulnerable and exploitable. In Gaza the brutal Hamas dictatorship has forced Christianity to the brink of extinction, and in the West Bank human rights groups have documented yearly instances of abuse where Christians are attacked and their land is stolen. The Arab-Muslim world will never recognize the Armenian genocide. It is folly to even expect them to.

  5. Dr-Hermon Mihranian said:

    I agree, Israel must recoqnize the Armenian Genocide without delay

  6. john goncuian said:

    Nowadays, all nation dealing with both sides because of their national interest and political realities of the the world. After Israel ‘s attack on Mavi Marmara good relations between Turkey and Israel strained and some time later Israel paid monetary compensation and perhaps apology (PM Erdogan got phone call from Obama when visited PM Nethanyahu).Acknowledging historical justice from Israel/Palestine will only happen when either one benefits from it.

  7. Ricardo1 said:

    It’s time for Israel to acknowledge and publically recognize the Turkish and Azerbaijani genocides!!!

  8. Satenik said:

    No ,it won’t be the end of the world. It will be the end of their world as they perceive it to be!