Armenian Jerusalem
“hokiyis takallagner”

     For the Armenians of Jerusalem, descendants of a race of

mountainous warriors, but imbued as they have become with

the Middle Eastern ethic of sentimentality, a child is their

literal treasure on earth.

               We   believe   that   our   children   are   the   most   important   component   of   our existence: we live only for them.       We don't live for ourselves. The children always come first.                True,   in   some   as   yet   unenlightened   age,   a   father   may,   under   extreme duress,   take   a   belt   to   a   recalcitrant   son,   or   backhand   a   stubborn   daughter, but   almost   as   soon   as   the   child   is   chastised,   it   is   pulled   back   into   the paternal   or   maternal   embrace,   the   anomaly   or   transgression   soon   forgotten or forgiven almost immediately.       And we spoil our children shamelessly.                "You   are   the   wheels   of   my   soul,"   (hokiyis   takallagner)   is   one   of   the   most common endearments with which an Armenian parent will address a child.                 To   us,   our   child   is   absolutely   precious,   but   if   there   is   any   other   human being    we    love    more    than    our    child,    it    will    be    our    child's    child,    our grandchildren.                 The   love   endures   forever.   Even   if   that   love   is   drastically   tried   in   the   face of   childish   misbehavior   or   alienation.   No   matter   how   old   a   child   may   be   he or she will always have a place in our heart.                It   is   not   unusual   for   a   mother   to   retain   a   piece   of   clothing,   a   shoe,   worn by   a   little   child,   for   years   after   he   or   she   has   grown   up,   married   and   had children of his or her own.                And   we   have   no   qualms   or   inhibitions   about   demonstrating   our   love   for our children, in private, in public, anywhere.               And   never,   in   the   history   of   the Armenians   of   Jerusalem,   has   anyone   ever heard   of   a   son   or   daughter   leaving   home   at   18.   Go   to   university,   even   if overseas,   yes,   but   leave   home   to   live   alone,   elsewhere?   Never   has   such   an inconceivable    abomination    been    visited    upon    the    Armenian    Quarter    of Jerusalem.                The   picture   changes,   of   course,   when   the   family   emigrates   and   resettles abroad. Then   the   values   of   home   drop   by   the   wayside,   and   default   values   of the   new   mode   of   a   foreign   way   of   life   replace   them,   as   people   try   to   adapt and adjust to the culture shock.                Not   always   successfully.   The   overwhelming   majority   of   "bantoukhd" (exile)   Armenians,   and   non-Armenians   as   well,   continue   to   pine   for   the   old hearth   they   have   abandoned,   often   unwillingly,   under   various   unremitting pressures, through no choice of theirs.                But   they   can't   go   back.   Few   ever   make   it   back.   There   is   no   ingathering of   exiles   for   them.   And   in   the   aftermath   of   the   uprooting   from   the   native soil,    the    children    are    lost    to    the    relentlessly    creeping    embrace    of assimilation:   their   native   tongue   is   forgotten,   the   girls   change   their   names when   they   intermarry   with   locals,   all   the   cherished   ancestral   values,   that provided    their    parents    with    stability    and    security,        are    discarded    and drowned in the shallow cup of foreign mores.                But   it   is   not   all   a   tale   of   gloom   and   doom.   Many   migrants,   armed   with hard   honed   experience   and   expertise   gained   in   their   native   land,   pick   up where   they   left   off,   and   achieve   great   success   and   glory   in   their   new habitat,   exploiting   the   magnificently   promising   new   opportunities   available to them.      They never forget Jerusalem. For who can ever forget Jerusalem?                This   is   the   raison   d'etre   of   the   Armenian-Jerusalem   website   project:   an attempt   to   preserve   our   culture,   history   and   traditions   against   the   inroads of   assimilation,   and   to   leave   our   progeny   with   a   record   and   chronicle   of their precious ancestry.
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