Armenian Jerusalem
A child’s perspective
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
               Jerusalem Armenians   have   had   their   share   of   poets,   troubadours   and      story-tellers,   but   although   records   or anthologies   of   the   accomplishments   of   previous   generations   are   non-existent,   memories   still   linger   among their  descendants, some of these very vivid.               Among   one   of   the   most   intriguing   skills   the   old   ones   proudly   possessed,   and   displayed   at   the   drop   of   a   hat, was   the   manufacture   of   tall   stories. Audiences   even   had   a   special   appellation   for   the   practitioner   of   this   kind of   art:   "Abu   'l   Haul,"   the Arabic   name   for   the   Sphinx   at   Giza   in   Egypt.   The   reference   or   connection   is   not   clear -   the   word   "Haul"   (as   in   'hole')   literally   signifies   terror   or   great   dismay,   and   "abu"   (literally,   'father')   is   an attributive construct carrying the meaning "of", "owner of".                Most   of   these   accounts   detailed   exaggerated   first   person   exploits   but   some   were   based   on   fairy   tales whose   origins   are   unknown.   There   was   the   story   of   the   three   friends   each   of   whom   had   a   unique   talent, including   invisibility,   which   enabled   them   to   garner   vast   riches. Another,   rated   M,   told   of   a   man   who   complains to   a   rooster:   "Isn't   it   a   shame   that   your   crowing   at   dawn   wakes   people   up   from   their   beautiful   sleep?"   and when the rooster concurs, he promptly wrings its neck.                Stories   of   ghouls   and   other   unclassified   fiends   and   monsters   abounded   -   including   the   bear   that   devoured every creature around him, but spared his mate.                The   songs   were   haunting   melodies   of   love   and   nostalgia   for   the Armenian   Quarter   had   tasted   an   inordinate slice    of    humanity's    painful    woes,    one    of    the    most    tragic    the    death    of    the    pretty    stewardess,    Hoppig Ohannessian, in a plane crash.                  Among   the   current   crop   of   writers   and   philosophers,   more   attuned   to   the   nuances   of   perpetuity,   poetry   in the   classic   sense   has   been   a   more   or   less   rare   indulgence.   Dr   Abraham   Terian   and   Prof   Haig   Khatchadourian have   attained   international   renown   with   their   brilliant   insights   while   on   a   more   modest   note   Kevork   Jinivizian, resident   poet   of   the   Armenian   Quarter   over   the   past   half   century   and   veteran   subeditor   of   the   Patriarchate's official   organ,   "Sion,"   has   produced   handfuls   of   poems   in Armenian.   One   of   his   anthologies   is   called   "Streams   of tears."                Although   a   healthy   crop   of   teachers   and   educators   was   available   to   cater   to   the   kaghakatsi   young,   few have   availed   themselves   of   the   academic   opportunity   to   pen   down   their   thoughts,   dreams   or   stories.   Novelists have   therefore   remained   an   endangered   species.   Abraham   Kankashian,   a   universally   popular   and   inspired teacher,   would   only   produce   one   slim   volume   of   short   stories,   "An Armenian   Medley."   John   Rose,   whose   mother was a midwife serving in the Armenian Quarter, has penned a touching reminiscence of life there.                   Journalism   has   attracted   a   number   of   kaghakatsis.   In   recent   days,   Aram   Belian   attained   to   the   post   of editor   of   Israel   TV's   Arabic   section   after   editng   the   now-defunct   Jerusalem   Times,   while   John   Zakarian   found his vocation on a local paper in the US, with a string of awards to his credit.                   The   Armenians   of   Jerusalem   have   always   been   good   with   their   hands.   Whether   it's   jewellery,   masonry, ceramics or metalworking, the output of their multifaceted imagination has astounded the world.