The investor who sought to lease 25 percent of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem has ignored a letter by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem cancelling the controversial real estate deal and has started demolition, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem warned Monday.
The Jerusalem Patriarchate announced last week that it was canceling the deal after fallout from the community, as well as a warning from the governments of Jordan and Palestine, who legally have control over the Armenian Quarter.
The Patriarchate said on Monday that the investor did not provide a legal response to the Patriarchate’s letter from last week and instead began demolishing walls and a parking lot adjacent to the property, the Patriarchate Chancellery said in a statement.
“Yesterday they even brought security guards armed with high powered rifles and tactically trained dogs demanding an evacuation of Armenians from the parking lot. As a reaction to this, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, members of the St. James Brotherhood, and members of the Armenian community, gathered in the Armenian Gardens and peacefully expressed their discontent. After a few hours, the two sides agreed to disperse until the Patriarchate receives an answer to their sent cancellation letter,” the Chancellery added.
At around 3 p.m. local time on Sunday afternoon, a group of Israeli extremist settlers entered the Armenian Quarter’s park, known as the Cow’s Pasture, where the Armenian community members had gathered to prevent further illegal demolition of the interior walls, the Save the ArQ Movement reported.
Danny Rothman and George Warwar, representatives of Xana Capital, backed with about 15 armed settlers and attack dogs, demanded the expulsion of Armenians, calling it their land. Warwar threatened the community, exclaiming that he’ll “get them one by one.” The settlers were also active, announcing that the Armenians are all “Goys [foreigners] and when the Messiah comes, [they] will all die.”
The Armenian community refused to back down and stood firmly on the rightfully owned property.
The Save the ArQ Movement community leaders, Hagop Djernazian and Setrag Balian, and the legal team, led by international lawyer Karnig Kerkonian, convened an emergency meeting and a member of the team, Eitan Peleg, arrived on scene to negotiate the stand down.
Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Archbishop Nourhan Manougian also arrived on the scene and stood side by side with the Armenian community of Jerusalem, along with priests and bishops. The community stood strong, with 200 members in unity to prevent the takeover and to save the Armenian Quarter.
Last week the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced that a letter was sent on October 26 to Xana Gardens Ltd. whereby the Patriarchate informed Xana Gardens of the cancellation of the agreement signed in August 2021 regarding the Armenian Gardens in the Old City, Jerusalem.
The Yerevan-based Tatoyan Foundation, established by Armenia’s former Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan, has been involved in the issue and together with the U.S.-based Kerkonian-Dajani law firm, attorney Garo Ghazarian and the Center for Law and Justice contacted community leaders and began monitoring the situation to quell any unrest.
In June, a group of attorneys and advisers led by the Kerkonian-Dajani firm headed a fact-finding mission, in which the Tatoyan Foundation and the Center for Law and Justice also participated.
Before that mission, alerts were received from the Armenian community in Jerusalem that a hotel and entertainment facility would be built in the Armenian grounds known as “Cows’ Garden,” and the residents who historically live in the area of the St. James Armenian Monastery would be evicted from the adjacent neighborhoods. Further, they found that the museum of the Armenian neighborhood would also be seriously threatened and the cemetery would be displaced.
Based on the evidence gathered during the fact-funding mission, the legal team prepared a 184-page report that included substantial evidence which formed the basis for the first in a series of legal remedies initiated, and more to be pursued in due course, the Tatoyan foundation reported.