This Land Is My Land But Now It’s Your Land

In geopolitics–as in real estate–there are only three things that really matter–location–location–and location. And although Armenia’s may feel that or current holdings in the Caucasus have placed us in one of the most dilapidated and bankrupt neighborhoods in the world–we have some pretty impressive holdings in other corners of the globe. If we compared the region that the current Republic of Armenia is situated in with actual neighborhoods that we are all familiar with–it would be the Bronx in New York or South Central Los Angeles. We’re surrounded by countries who engage in criminal activities including–but not limited to kidnapping–drug trafficking–extortion–prostitution–money laundering–illegal arms sales–and the occasional harboring of terrorist organizations. Meanwhile–Armenia is like the old couple that moved into the neighborhood back when it was a nice place to raise a family and have decided to stick around even if the old school yard where their children used to play is now a popular hang out for drug pushers and gang members.

But forget our little slice of paradise at the footsteps of Mount Ararat and let’s turn our attention to another–possibly more valuable piece of real estate that Armenia’s own–a piece of land that is probably more significant and more valuable than the money pit known as the homeland. You probably don’t know what I’m talking about–so here’s an easy hint. It once was the favorite hang out of a very popular fellow by the name of Jesus Christ. You remember him–right? The Lord Almighty. The only Son of God. Yeah–that’s right–I’m talking about Jerusalem–baby! That city of eternal salvation. That holiest of places and I’m not just talking about Christians either.

For those of you living in a cultural vacuum (such as Glendale and it’s environs) and whose knowledge of Armenian cultural history does not go beyond last year’s Armenian Music Awards at the Alex Theater–allow me to enlighten you. Jerusalem is divided into four quarters. One for every major religion of the world–Christian–Jewish–Muslim. Now before you shoot your mouth off and say Buddhist to complete the quartet–go back to the beginning of the column and think really hard. Which lucky group lays claim to that last quarter? That’s right! WE DO. Hence the Armenian Quarter!

But what of the Armenian Quarter you ask? Why is this piece of land so valuable or important? Well–if you happen to be religious (and I mean religious–not just Christmas and Easter)–then when the Messiah returns to check up on us to see how we’re doing since the last time we crucified him to a wooden cross–you’ll have a front row seat for a pretty impressive show. Having a quarter of the Holy City is like having orchestra seats for the Phantom of the Opera. And if you’re not very religious–(meaning you wear a cross and have crucifixes in your home but all your actions and life practices would make even the disciples of Jesus want to stone you to death) then at least you can appreciate the public relations value of the property. Perhaps if we did a better job of informing people of the fact that Armenia’s have had a Christian presence in Jerusalem for nearly 1600 years–then people would stop thinking we were a dysfunctional Muslim nation that harbors terrorists (refer to second paragraph–"That old couple MUST be selling drugs. Everyone else in the neighborhood is").

It so easy to get positive publicity for our invaluable holdings in Jerusalem–not to mention the special place it holds in our history and heritage as part of our national identity. Unfortunately–the Armenian presence in Jerusalem keeps shrinking. Of the tens of thousands of Armenia’s that lived in that area before the establishment of the Israeli state–roughly 2000 remain and more are leaving each day.

To make matters worse–Armenia’s are caught in the middle of the Arab-Israeli conflict–and just to make sure there’s some salt rubbed into the Armenian community’s wounds–our own Patriarchate in Jerusalem is managing the properties with the skill and grace of a drunk baboon. A recent in-depth report by reporter Ara Ayer titled "Crisis in the Armenian Quarter" details how various Jewish parties are trying to grab as much property from the Armenia’s in Jerusalem as they possibly can and the Patriarch and his emissaries are complicit in giving this land away either because of incompetence–greed–or just plain stupidity. The article should be available on the Groong Armenian News service and if it’s not I will post it on my web blog at www.skeptiksinikian.blogspot.com. It is well worth a thorough read. It is amazing how the properties that Armenia’s have owned for hundreds of centuries are being mismanaged by the Church and others. At the pace that the land is being sold or given away–Armenia’s would be lucky to have even one street left with an Armenian sign to show there used to be a presence there. Apparently–priests with no legal or real estate experience have been charged with cutting deals with real estate agents with such cunning negotiating skills–they make Donald Trump look like a girl scout.

And you thought Glendale was having problems with land giveaways to large developers. Let all of those self proclaimed pundits and imbeciles who are on Armenian television preaching about the pros and cons of building a commercial center in downtown Glendale pull their heads out of the uh? ground and voice their opinions on this issue. Let them say something about land being given away that doesn’t even belong to us but rather to our grandchildren and their grandchildren.

Way to go Patriarch of Jerusalem! Priests negotiating real estate deals? Land being sold or given away? Wait–it gets better–or rather worse. A recent United Press article ("Israel reconsiders barrier route"–July 27–2004) reported that according to the Geneva Initiative for Peace–the Armenian quarter will be divided into two halves–one controlled by the Palestinians and the other by Israel.

Make no mistake about it folks. Our so-called representatives in Jerusalem are giving land away like they’re holding a used car tent clearance sale. It gives me chills just thinking about it. Hurry–hurry hurry! All land must go! Rock bottom prices! Historic landmark dating back to Jesus–beautiful views and walking distance from the Wailing Wall. Will take any offer!

By the way–don’t misinterpret this as a slam against the Armenian Church. There are many great things about the Armenian Church and the problems that do exist can be fixed with what’s right with the Armenian Church. But that does not change the fact that our property is being given away until nothing is left. There are things we can do to help preserve our cultural heritage in Jerusalem and simultaneously draw attention to the innocent victims (Armenia’s) of this Arab-Israeli conflict–but that would mean that we’d have to stop sending so much money to Armenia. I’m sure Armenia would understand.

I don’t know if there’s any easy fix answers to this problem. I simply wanted to make people aware of what’s going on. Jerusalem is a special place–not just for Armenia’s but for billions of people in the world. It would be a shame if we lost our foothold there. What’s more–it’s painful to see a community that has withstood invasions from Mongols–Turks–Moors–and others finally succumb to marauding and looting from their own people.

If you’re mad as hell at what’s happening–then complain to the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church or email the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin and let them know that this gross mismanagement of a piece of our nation’s history will not be tolerated.

After all–it’s ours more than it is anyone else’s and we have a right to have a voice.

Skeptik Sinikian is not a licensed real estate agent but knows a bad deal when he sees one. If you are mad as hell about this issue and wish to voice your concern about it–email Skeptik at skeptiksinikian@aol.com

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