Armenian Jerusalem
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian

For those who have not heard the name before, it might be a good idea to sit down, have

a glass of water, and take a deep breath before trying to pronounce, Aghazarian. But

anyone who has come across the Armenian Palestinian historian from the Old City of

Jerusalem seems to breeze through it: “But of course, Albert Aghazarian!” The mere

utterance of his name usually precipitates numerous stories about Al-Ustaz, the teacher…

the Old City’s walking encyclopedia who knows the history of Jerusalem up to its each and

every stone.

        Albert Aghazarian   may   be   known   mostly   as   a   historian,   a   teacher, and   a   storyteller,   but   if   you   were   to   ask   him,   he   might   say   that   he   is first   and   foremost   an   interpreter,   because   everything   in   this   life   is up   for   interpretation.   A   fluent   speaker   of   Arabic,   English,   French, Armenian,   Hebrew,   Turkish,   and   some   Spanish,   Albert   would   say that   he   only   speaks   “one   language,”   before   he   pauses   and   adds… “at   a   time.”   He   finds   joy   in   translating   the   inner   nuances   and   spirit of   words   and   meanings,   and   looks   at   translation   as   a   craft   and   a hobby.    He    realizes    that    the    art    of    communication    is    ultimately connected   with   the   relations   that   are   built   around   it   –   the   person one   is   speaking   to.   His   understanding   of   public   relations,   together with   his   knowledge   and   natural   aura,   have   turned   him   into   what may   be   referred   to   as   a   big   personality   who   quickly   relates   with people   no   matter   which   background   or   part   of   the   world   they   may be coming from.          Albert’s   name   has   also   been   associated   with   Birzeit   University, where   he   was   an   active   student   before   earning   a   BA   in   political science   at   the American   University   of   Beirut   in   1972.   He   pursued   his master’s    degree    at    Georgetown    University    in    Arab    and    Islamic studies.   Upon   his   return   from   Washington,   D.C.   in   1979,   he   became a   lecturer   in   cultural   studies   and   was   soon   assigned   as   director   of public   relations   at   Birzeit   University.   In   the   early   eighties, Albert   was   working   from   a   tiny   office   at   Birzeit’s   old campus.   Turning   the   university   into   a   well-established   institution   amidst   curfews   and   closures   by   the   Israeli forces   who   referred   to   such   campuses   as   “illegal   cells   of   education”   seemed   like   an   impossible   mission   at   the time.   But   Albert   and   the   team,   with   the   guidance   of   the   late   Dr.   Gabi   Baramki,   had   a   role   in   uplifting   the educational system under occupation as they kept on going and making things happen.          Adirector   of   public   relations   at   Birzeit   for   over   twenty-four   years,   Albert   was   always   alert   to   address   the many   challenges   at   the   university,   including   the   military   army,   in   defense   of   the   institution.   His   communication skills,   wisdom,   charisma,   and   ability   to   secure   funds   soon   turned   him   into   a   public   spokesperson   and   media figure.   Although   he   was   asked   several   times   to   take   on   high   governmental   positions,   he   prefers   to   think   of himself   as   a   free   soul   who   has   generously   been   sharing   his   in-depth   analysis   with   key   local   and   international figures,   including   writers   and   journalists,   while   spending   his   evenings   smoking   shisha   in   a   small   inn   and   sharing stories with fellow Jerusalemites about history and daily life.         Albert   is   and   always   has   been   a   Jerusalemite,   but   he   is   also   a   citizen   of   the   world   who   refuses   to   get   trapped in   constraining   exclusivity.   He   opts,   instead,   to   explore   open   spaces   amidst   the   narrow   roads,   and   acknowledge the   collective   and   historical   wonders   and   different   identities   that   have   turned   Jerusalem   into   the   place   that   it is.   His   philosophy   comes   from   the   combination   of   reason   and   faith.   An   avid   reader   and   connoisseur   of   Middle East   history,   Albert   draws   influence   from   characters   and   authors   such   as   Averroes,   Omar   Al-Khayyam,   Queen Melisende,   and   Amin   Maalouf.   His   family   house   in   the   Armenian   Quarter   of   Jerusalem,   sometimes   referred   to as   a   cultural   salon,   is   representative   of   that   openness.   His   wife   Madeleine,   with   her   gentle   and   friendly   spirit, has   just   as   much   valuable   insight   to   share   about   the   city   that   she   was   born   and   raised   in.   Her   generosity   and welcoming   nature   have   been   noted   by   comers   and   goers   from   all   walks   of   life   as   the   true   embodiment   of “home.”         Albert’s   favorite   mottos?   “Do   your   best,   and   don’t   worry   about   the   rest,”   and   “In   the   world’s   battle   between the power of culture and the culture of power, somehow the power of culture always manages to survive.”
(Reproduced courtesy”This Week in Palestine,” November 2015 issue)