© Arthur Hagopian 2017
     In the heart of a labyrinth of quaint, serpentine streets and alleys, in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of the most dynamic people of the Middle East, the Armenians, make their home.      Claiming descent from the conquering armies of Tigranes II, King of Kings, Armenians have been living in Jerusalem for over 2,000 years.      Pagan idol-worshippers, they had left their home in the land where Noah’s Ark had come to rest, seeking the distant glory their emperor had promised them.      The invading army pitched its tents along the skirts of the Judean Hills through which the River Jordan meanders on its merry way to the Dead Sea. Some of the warriors and adventurers who tasted of the hypnotic waters of the river, fell under its spell, and decided to make their home in the region.      Three centuries later, in the year 301 of the Christian Era,  their original homeland, Armenia, abandoned paganism following the miraculous conversion of their king Tiridates, and adopted the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as its state religion, the first nation in the history of the world to do so.      They smashed their lifeless statues of their gods and goddesses and took up the wooden cross as their crutch.      This seminal milestone in their history was to unleash a borderless tsunami of pilgrims, wending their way to the Holy City on foot or on the back of camels and donkeys, in long caravans that sometimes enlisted 700 beasts of burden, braving unforgiving desert sandstorms or running the gauntlet of roaming bandits, in their relentless quest for spiritual rejuvenation.      Like the conscript who had settled in the region three hundred years earlier, the pilgrims, among them my ancestors, stayed and prospered, in the process making Jerusalem what many unabashedly proclaim, the center of the world.      Their descendants gave the city its first printing press and photographic studio. One of my great-grandparents was a prolific builder. The houses he and his fellow artisans built, with their distinctive three-foot-wide earthen walls, still stand.      I was born, and grew up, in such a house, in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City.        This is our story, the saga of the Armenians of Jerusalem.
every tile has a tale to tell