Harry Tamrazian in Yerevan
The Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem appealed last week to Israeli Supreme Court to overrule the Israeli government's decision to use part of the property of the Armenian Church in Holy Land as a crossing line of the security fence, which would prevent Palestinian terrorists to cross into Israeli territory. The construction of the 350 km security wall has already started and the Cabinet of Ariel Sharon decided that the wall should pass through the territory of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem called "Baron Der". Sharon's government has notified the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem that the security wall will occupy a belt 27 meters wide and 300 meters long crossing the Armenian land and its decision is irreversible.
"We have no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court of Israel, as well as to the world media and public", the spokesman for the Armenian Patriarchate, who asked not to identified, told RFE/RL last Thursday. The Armenian Church in Jerusalem complained that after the construction of the wall, the Church will virtually lose all its territories because the remaining land will become unusable and will simply become a buffer zone.
The stand-off between the Armenian Patriarchate and the Israeli government led to public and official protest in the Capital of Armenia, Yerevan. Armenian foreign ministry has sent a letter of protest last week, demanding an explanation from Sharon's government asking to reverse its decision.
However, as the spokesman of theArmenian Patriarchate told RFE/RL, Sharon's government has notified the Armenian Church that its decision is irreversible. The Armenian Diaspora organizations around the world and powerful lobbying organizations in the United States appealed to their governments asking them to prevent the construction of the security wall on the "Baron Der" territory.
The Armenian National Committee of America, a lobbying group in Washington has organized an internet campaign of protest, urging its grass root organizations and members throughout the United States to send e-mails to US president George Bush, Congressmen and Senators with the request to stop the controversial Israeli plan.
The head of another Armenian lobbying group in Washington DC, John Jamian of the Armenian Assembly of America sent letters to US president George Bush, Secretary of State Collin Powell and National Security Affairs Advisor Condoleezza Rice expressing urgent concern over Israeli occupation of lands and properties belonging to the Armenian Patriarchate.
The Executive Director of Armenian Assembly of America complained in his letters sent to George Bush and senior administration members that the Israeli Defense Forces destroyed ancient tombs and antiquities and uprooted many of the old olive trees. The head of the influential Armenian lobbying group in Washington DC urged US leaders to help stop the occupation of Armenian historic and spiritually significant property in the Holy Land. "We urge you to investigate the Israeli Government's invasive and confrontational property attachment", John Jamian wrote last week in his letters to George Bush and his administration senior members.
The "Der Baron" property, which was purchased in 1641 serves as a summer residence for the patriarchate and is located in Bethlehem and borders the Jerusalem municipality. Despite its small congregation, the Armenian church is the largest landowner in the Old City and has substantial holdings in the Israeli coastal city of Jaffa and in Jewish west Jerusalem, where it owns much of the central shopping district.
Dozens of public organizations in Armenia, including the Union of Armenian Intellectuals also protested the Israeli Cabinet's decision. There were other protests, blaming the government in Yerevan for not doing enough to prevent the loss of Armenian community land. Diplomatic sources in Yerevan told RFE/RL today that after the Armenian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Israeli foreign Minister Shimon Peres, asking for an explanation, the Israeli government slowed down the construction.
Meanwhile, the spokeswoman of the foreign ministry Zyunik Aghajanian told RFE/RL on Friday that the Israeli government promised official Yerevan that it will postpone its decision on buildingthe security wall on the Armenian property until August 12. The Israeli government informed official Yerevan that the government and the Supreme Court will have a decision on the controversial construction on August 12. Zyunik Aghajanian also said that the Israeli government will take into consideration Armenia's concerns in its final decision on the fate of the Armenian historical site "Baron Der", which according to official Yerevan is not only a prime real estate but also a significant historical religious site for all Christian Armenians around the world.