On 28 December a mob of 30 masked men armed with pepper spray and various weapons entered the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City and tried to remove barricades to allow access for bulldozers. 

When Armenian Christian inhabitants resisted, the mob attacked them. According to a communique  from the Armenian Patriarchate, several priests, deacons, students of the theological seminary and local Armenians were seriously injured in the assault. Police said several arrests were made from both sides, but no charges brought. The Armenian Patriarchate has demanded a full investigation.

It is believed that the mob descended on the Armenian Quarter in relation to a contested property deal involving  Tel Aviv-based real estate developers Rothman’s Xana Gardens Ltd. 

The developers struck a deal with the Armenian Patriarchate through a priest in charge of real estate affairs in 2021, but the agreement was reached without the knowledge and consent of the residents of the Armenian Quarter or their institutions. The agreement gave the developers a 98-year lease on approximately 25% of the total area belonging to the Armenian community in the Old City, incorporating a car park, five residences and a conference hall of the Patriarchate.

When the agreement became known, the Armenian community protested. The priest responsible for the transaction was defrocked and the Armenian Patriarch sent a letter to Xana Gardens cancelling the contract. On 27 December 2023 the Armenian Patriarchate submitted a lawsuit to the District Court of Jerusalem to terminate the agreement with Xana Gardens.

While the mob descended on the Armenian Quarter, posters in Hebrew were displayed outside the Zion Gate accusing the Armenian Patriarch of racism and anti-Semitism and claiming that Bishop Baghdasaryan was threatening to kill the developer. In the present climate of war in Gaza, such claims are even more provocative than usual.

Prayer Points

Prayer is requested that:

  • The Jerusalem police will conduct a full investigation into the violent incident,
  • The Armenian community will handle the situation appropriately as they seek to protect their continued presence in the Old City,
  • The dispute over the shady land deal will be resolved in the courts,
  • Jerusalem, with its historic ethnic and religious neighbourhoods, will enjoy peace.
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