Social Issues

Jerusalem’s dwindling Armenians preserve oldest Christian traditions

By Joan Mas Autonell

Jerusalem, Sep 13 (EFE).- The 1,000-year-old stones of the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem bear witness to the ethnic Armenian community that keeps the oldest Christian traditions alive, despite its dwindling numbers.

Armenians, the first in the world to adopt Christianity in 301 AD, were able to persist and adapt to preserve their traditions and existence in a place that has seen all forms of ruling regimes, as well as the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

George Hintlian, a historian and the former secretary of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, tells EFE the some of the powers under which Armenians have lived include the Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans, the British Mandate, Jordan, and now modern-day Israel.

“We are sometimes aggressive when it comes to our rights.

“We have to maintain a certain political balance without being hostile, but also without being vulnerable. So it has made us very tough and very sophisticated.”

As he walks through the courtyard of the Armenian monastery, Hintlian says that the medieval building in the Armenian Quarter that covers one-sixth of the Old City is one of the oldest convents in the Holy Land.

In the convent, Armenian psalms are sung every day by members of the community dressed in black robes and pointed hoods, one of their traditional habits.

Despite the fact that Armenians in the region have always been a minority, their numbers have further shrunk in recent decades.

After the Armenian genocide by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, thousands of Armenians ended up in the Holy Land.

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