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Armenians in Palestine mark 100 years since Genocide

April 23, 2015 3:05 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2015 4:10 P.M.)
An Armenian church service in Jerusalem on April 22, 2015. (MaanImages/Emily Mulder)
By: Alex Shams
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- The Armenian community of the Holy Land this week marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of a series of massacres and pogroms against the community in their ancestral homeland in Eastern Anatolia.

Large numbers of the community’s approximately 5,000 members in Palestine are expected to take part in commemorations for the 1.5 million lives lost in the Armenian Genocide, which took place during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

The official centenary date falls on Friday, April 24, but commemorations are expected to begin on Thursday and continue over two days.

On Thursday evening at 6.15 p.m., bells from the 13 major churches in the Old City will toll 100 times to commemorate the deaths.

Later that night, Armenians will march by candlelight from the Old City to an Armenian church in West Jerusalem near the German Colony. The church is part of a large amount of property Armenians lost in 1948, when Zionist militias expelled Palestinians -- Arab and Armenian alike -- from their homes in what became Israel.

On Friday evening, meanwhile, inter-communal services will be held at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher with representatives of all churches from across Jerusalem present.

Earlier in the day, a protest will be held in front of the Turkish Consulate in Jerusalem. Although the killings were organized by elites in the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor state to the Turkish Republic, Turkey has long denied that the killings were pre-planned and community members are angry at what they see as Turkey’s continued impunity for the slaughter.

Armenians have been a part of the fabric of the Holy Land since the 5th century, when the Armenian Kingdom was the first in the world to convert en masse to Christianity. Since then, the community has maintained a small base of a few hundred in Jerusalem centered on a few holy sites.

Church spokesman and historian Kevork Hintlian told Ma’an that the situation changed dramatically after the Genocide, when thousands of refugees fled Anatolia and sought refuge in the neighboring Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

While most ended up in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, a few thousand made their way to Palestine and community numbers surged to around 7-8,000. In 1948, community numbers peaked at around 15,000, but the ethnic cleansing of Palestine made more than two-thirds of the community’s refugees yet again, fleeing either to the West Bank, Lebanon, or Europe and North America.

Today, more than 4,500 Armenians continue to call Palestine home, with the numbers spread between 2,500 in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, 1,000 in Jaffa, and 1,000 in Haifa. Although the numbers are much less than they once were, Hintlian told Ma’an that after years of emigration they had steadied in the past decade.

Armenians are not the only Palestinian community whose history in the land can be traced back to the Genocide.

There are also about 2,000 Assyrians in the Holy Land today who trace their roots to the Genocide. About two-thirds of that community, which also comes from Eastern Anatolia, lives in Bethlehem, with the remainder primarily in Jerusalem. Today most Assyrians live in northern Iraq, with diaspora populations spread around the world as well.

Widely recognized as one of the first genocides of the 20th century, the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians through deportation and killing is today considered a turning point in the development of the Armenian nation.

Previously a mostly rural community spread across large swathes of the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Anatolia as well as in the southern Caucasus under Russian control, the genocide wiped out almost entirely the Armenian population of Turkey.

The community had long intermingled and been a part of the shared Turkish-Armenian-Kurdish culture of the region, but the pogroms ended centuries of history and left the community dispersed across the Middle East and the world.

In the last decade a large movement has emerged within Turkish society to acknowledge the Ottoman Empire’s responsibility for the killings. Marches take place yearly on April 24 in major cities across Turkey, in addition to those around the world.

Despite this, the Turkish government continues to deny the Empire’s involvement in the killings, and the issue remains a sensitive issue in the country’s relations with the rest of the world.
Jon / USA
Israel is one of the countries who refuse to call the genocide of the Armenians a genocide. What is their response to those who deny the holocaust. Hypocrites.
23/04/2015 16:42
dan / usa
Actually, Israeli president reuven rivlin just the other day called what happened a genocide
24/04/2015 21:42
Alex / USA
Jon, USA and Muslim countries have also failed to recognize genocide by Turks. Also, right-wing Israeli politicians continue to demand Israel recognize Armenian genocide, despite threats from Turkey. Jon, get your facts and stop the hate!
25/04/2015 09:20
Jim / Lebanon
This occurred in Jerusalem, so it was Armenians in Israel.

"palestine" does not exist.
25/04/2015 15:17
Brian Cohen / Israel
Israel - a country where Armenian Chrisitians have full citizneship and live in peace. Can't say that about any of our neighboring countries, especially Palestine where Christians continue to flee the creeping takeover by Islamic fundamentalists. Hamastan is almost a reality.
25/04/2015 22:13
Jon / USA
Actually Rivlin has backtracked from his previous position in years past and not called it genocide. Shimon Peres denied it altogether in deference to Turkey. The official stance of the government is to not recognize the Armenian tragedy as a genocide. Same for the US and others. These ARE the FACTS
26/04/2015 07:16
Yasser / Palestine
Genocide allegation is very controversial. You cant compare this Allegetation with Holocoust. If u need details, dont hesitate to check this . and #FactCheckArmenia in Twitter and Facebook
26/04/2015 12:49
Jon / USA
Nice pack of lies on that Turkish propaganda site. Claims that in April 1915 leading Armenians were only arrested not killed. Well, Maybe not killed on that day, but later everyone of them was murdered. Not a word about how the Armenians were slaughtered. There is only controversy in Turkish gov't.
26/04/2015 16:30
Ahmed / USA
The genocidal murder of Armenian Christians by the Turks is a fact of history. It is recognized and marked in Israel but denied (as is the Holocaust) by Islamic fundamentalists such as the PA and their buddies in Iran. Jon, check your facts!
27/04/2015 22:08
Jon / USA - Armenian
The OFFICIAL stance of the Israeli government is to not use the word genocide in describing what happened to the Armenians. Read a book, or a newspaper Ahmed. Same for the US. Israel recognizes genocide, but only their own, not that of the Armenians.
29/04/2015 06:59
Hakan / Saudi Arabia
There are thousands of official paper in the countries open to everyone which shows armenian iş quilty side in the ww1. This is a big ile.
03/10/2015 11:58
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