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World News

Jerusalem: Fears rise for local Armenian Christians after sale of church land

by Heather Preston

There are fears Jerusalem’s Armenian community is under threat, following the controversial sale of a quarter of its land.

25 percent of the Holy Land’s Armenian quarter – which is home to approximately 2,000 Armenian Christians – has reportedly been leased to a Jewish-Australian investor, for 99 years.

The news has sparked protests from local Armenians, who say the deal threatens their homes and businesses as well as their presence within the Holy Land.

Reports first emerged of the deal in 2021, when Baret Yeretsian - a former priest who was director of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s real estate department - told Armenian media the land had reportedly been leased to businessman Danny Rubenstein, for the development of a luxury hotel complex.

In response, 18 Armenian clergymen co-signed a statement raising concerns about the deal.

In April, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced that the Church had signed a contract for the sale of the tract of land, known as the Goveru Bardez or ‘Cows’ Garden’. According to reports from the Independent, The Armenian Patriarch, Nourhan Manougian claims he was deceived by Yeretsian, who has since been defrocked.  Manougian says the “fraudulent” deal took place without his knowledge. Yeretsian – who denies any wrongdoing has since fled his residence, following unrest from local residents accusing him of being a “traitor.” 

Armenians have since taken to the streets in Jerusalem, to rally for the patriarch to revoke the land deal.  Meanwhile the Palestinian Authority and Jordan's King Abdullah II have suspended their recognition of Manougian – who is elected to the position for life.

Community activist and rally organiser Hagop Djernazian told the BBC the deal will affect “cultural daily life” and the “entire mosaic of Jerusalem”.



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