Jerusalem: Armenians injured, arrested after attack by Jewish settlers near 'Cow’s Garden'

In a letter, the patriarchate writes that 30 "provocateurs" wearing masks and carrying weapons attacked bishops, priests, and others. Conversely, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor said that “Arab Muslim men" fought with Armenians until police made arrests "on both sides". Control over a disputed area in the holy city is behind the attack.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israeli police arrested two young Armenians while several others were injured, some in serious condition, during an attack yesterday afternoon by scores of Jewish extremists in a disputed area in Jerusalem.

The area belongs to the Armenian Patriarchate but has been targeted by Jewish settlers and a controversial businessman.

As in the past, the Christians were victimised twice: first, by the attack that shocked the community and injured some of its members, and secondly, by Israeli police, who penalised the victims and not the victimisers.

According to the Movement for the Protection and Preservation of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, two young Armenians were arrested following an attack by armed men in an area known as "Cow’s Garden” (Goveroun Bardez).

“Tomorrow they will be brought to the court. The lawyers hired by the Movement for the Protection and Preservation of the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem will represent them during the court proceedings,” the Movement said in a statement yesterday.

In addition, the Movement urges the Armenian Patriarchate to use all means at its disposal, including its connections to police, municipal, and government authorities, to ensure the immediate release of the unjustly detained youths.

Local sources report that, yesterday, at least 30 "provocateurs" wearing masks, some wielding weapons, attacked Armenian bishops, priests, deacons and others in Jerusalem’s Old City. Pictures and a video of the incident were posted on social media.

In a letter to the Israeli government and police, the Armenian patriarchate described the attack as “mass and coordinated” in which “Several priests, students, and indigenous Armenians [were] seriously injured”.

“They attacked us,” Bishop Koryoun Baghdasaryan, director of the Real Estate Department for the Patriarchate, told the Post.

According to Armenian Patriarchate Chancellor Aghan Gogchyan, the attackers used pepper spray and other chemicals against seminary students, several of whom were taken to hospital.

According to Armenian community leaders, the attack is connected to a lawsuit against an ongoing property grab. They blame a group of 30 extremist Israeli settlers who were dressed in black with ski masks, carrying weapons.

Shortly before 1 pm, the attackers arrived armed with sticks, stones, and tear-gas grenades in another attempt to violently remove the Armenian community from the area. Armenians fought the Jewish settlers until the police arrived.

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum offered a different version of events, one bordering on the absurd.

Calling the attack an “unfortunate incident”, she blamed “some Arab Muslim men” who “got into a brawl” with “some men from the Armenian community”, adding that “Police came promptly to separate the parties, and arrests were made on both sides.”

Jerusalem’s Armenian community has been embroiled in a controversy over the sale of property in the Old City of Jerusalem, which has created a deep internal rift.

The issue began when a mysterious Australian Jewish developer, Danny Rothman (Daniel Rubenstein), was able to lease part of the Armenian Quarter for 99 years, virtually confiscating it from the community.

The "traitor" who mediated and signed the deed is Baret Yeretzian, former director of the Patriarchate’s Real Estate Office, now in "exile."

He was aided and abetted by Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, Archbishop Sevan Gharibian, and developer Danny Rothman who plans to build a luxury hotel at the site.

The affair has also affected the Armenian Patriarchate, whose primate is now distrusted by the community, with many members calling for his resignation, while Jordan and Palestine no longer recognise his authority.

The affair broke out last May, but the lease agreement was signed in great secrecy in July 2021. The 99-year lease includes the area called "Cow’s Garden", now used as a parking lot for people going to the Wailing Wall.

Its use by Jews has provoked the wrath of Armenians, who have been fighting since 2021 to regain full control.

The contract covers other properties as well: four Armenian homes, the Boulghourji restaurant, stores, and the Tourianashen buildings on Jaffa Road, outside the Old City.

The controversy has touched even the Abraham Accords, since one of the companies involved is One&Only, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).