Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Residents of the historic Armenian quarter in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem are rallying against a luxury hotel project that poses a threat to their ancient community. The real estate deal, involving an Australian-Israeli investor gaining 25% of the Old City’s Armenian quarter, has sparked anger and a determined response from the residents.

The community, fearing the loss of their land, initiated a peaceful struggle, with the youth positioning themselves in front of bulldozers during the construction. Armenians have set up a camp for a weeks-long sit-in to protect the contested land, leading to clashes with armed provocateurs. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem accused real estate developer Danny Rothman of orchestrating a coordinated physical attack.

East Jerusalem’s complex divisions, including the Old City’s quarters, have been a focal point of tensions since Israel’s annexation in 1967. The contested land deal, initiated without the consent of the Armenian community, involves a 99-year lease on 11,500 square meters, including residences and a seminar hall.

Despite the patriarchate’s claim of withdrawing from negotiations due to discovered problems, community members feel betrayed. Father Baret Yeretzian, responsible for the deal, has been defrocked.

The recent escalation followed the Armenian patriarch’s formal cancellation of the agreement, leading to bulldozers arriving with armed settlers. The takeover attempt capitalized on the chaos triggered by a Palestinian militant attack on Israel, demolishing part of the wall surrounding the parking lot.

Campaigners, supported by the Armenian diaspora, are striving to preserve the land with legal assistance and media coverage. The situation draws parallels with previous disputes over Greek Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem, raising concerns about the potential impact on the integrity of the Armenian quarter.

While facing challenges in the divided city, including opposition from settlers, the Armenian community remains steadfast in its determination to protect its heritage. Despite the complexity of the battle, community members affirm, “we are ready.”

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