CV NEWS FEED // The historic Armenian Christian Quarter of Jerusalem now faces an “existential territorial threat” from foreign developers seeking to build a luxury hotel over the region, according to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The patriarchate issued a statement last week after Jerusalem police began ordering local Armenians to evacuate the area in order for construction to begin.
“The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is under possibly the greatest existential threat of its 16-century history,” according to the statement. “This existential territorial threat fully extends to all the Christian communities of Jerusalem.”
According to the Patriarchate, the developer, Xana Gardens Ltd. has begun its “vast destruction and removal of asphalt on the grounds of the Armenian Quarter” without proper legal permits from the municipality.
In a letter to the developer on October 26, the Armenian Patriarchate canceled the land deal, which it described as “tainted with false representation, undue influence, and unlawful benefits.”
The controversy began in July 2021 after the director of the Armenian Patriarchate real estate department, former priest Khachik Yeretzian, leased a large portion of the Armenian Quarter to Danny Rubenstein, a Jewish businessman from Australia and head of Xana Gardens Ltd.
Rubenstein planned to build a luxury hotel during the 98 year period of his lease, after which the land and hotel would be returned to the Patriarchate. The land in question is approximately 8 acres, which is about 14% of Jerusalem’s Old City.
However, the patriarchate claims the lease was finalized without ratification from the Synod and the General Assembly.
Yeretzian claims he signed the lease with the patriarchate’s full support and was being condemned “for an act that the patriarchate signed and now I am being accused.”
On May 6, 2022, the Synod unanimously voted to defrock Yeretzian, “for his disloyalty and especially the series of frauds and deceptions he committed regarding” the lease of the Armenian Quarter.
The Armenian Patriarchate’s statement continued:
Instead of providing a lawful response to the cancellation, the developers attempting to build on the Cow’s Garden have completely disregarded the legal posture of the Patriarchate towards this issue, and instead have elected for provocation, aggression, and other harassing, incendiary tactics including destruction of property, the hiring of heavily armed provocateurs, and other instigation.
The Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem was established in 301 AD, when Armenia officially declared itself a Christian nation.
“We plead with the entirety of the Christian communities of Jerusalem to stand with the Armenian Patriarchate in these unprecedented times as this is another clear step taken toward the endangerment of the Christian presence in Jerusalem and the Holy Land,” the Patriarchate concluded.