© Arthur Hagopian 2017

News  jar

        The street turns right and leads us to the historic convent of St Mark, which is said to be the first Christian enclave erected in the Holy Land. This is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were ensconced briefly, before the   enterprising Jewish archeologist  Yigal Yadin gained access to them, crossing the battle-lines at the risk of his life, and secured them for history.       The dwindling Syriac community is agog with excitement: they are waiting to hear the first solemn mass to be celebrated by young Abouna Boulos, the first Syriac priest to be ordained in the Holy Land for 100 years. Their new new Archbishop, Mar Sweiros Malki Murad, cannot hide his enormous joy and pride at this historic footnote in the annals of his church.      Abouna Boulos takes me by the arm and leads me to an underground chapel and points to a jar, leaning against a corner.       "This is the jar in which Jesus changed water into wine during the Cana wedding," he tells me.       I had been married in that church, but no one had ever revealed its secret to me, until now.       How many more mysteries does Jerusalem harbor in its cavernous bosom? I remember the underground cave,  its entrance blocked by an iron lid, in the courtyard of my uncle Yeghya's house.  Had anyone ever ventured to explore its depths? Did it contain nothing but skeletons, as rumored?          I retrace my steps and pass under an arch which supports a house I had lived in. The structure had been a  rickety affair, a Damoclean sword hanging over the heads of unwitting passersby.  And eventually, the arch did collapse, the roof caving in and pulling the floor of the house with it. Fortunately, no one was hurt.       I walk out of the arch and stand before a wall that had an eerie tendency to loose its bowels and come tumbling down at least once a year, blocking the way. This usually occurred around the time of the Armenian Christmas which is celebrated in Jerusalem on January 19. Apparently, the haphazardly piled stones could not withstand the pressure of the layers of snow, and swooned under them. The problem was rectified by the application of generous splashes of mortar.      On my left, lies the "Dar el 'ajayez" home of the old people" compound, a number of dwellings circling a tiled yard where half a dozen families live in customary harmony, and the occasional verbal duelling. An old friend, Jirayr, had his home there.     One of the other residents was a lumbering youth whose name I have forgotten. He liked to show his prowess and once invited Jirayr and another boy to hang onto his bulging biceps while he twirled them around. Jirary fell and broke his teeth - but was entreated to clam up about the incident. Although he suffered from recurring dental problems, he kept his promise.     And once he accompanied a younger brother of mine and a cousin on a trip to Istanbul. None of them spoke Turkish and when they arrived at a restaurant to order food, my brother devised a cunning stratagem to get them well fed: he started flapping his arms about and cackling like a hen, to the bemusement of the waiter and the amusement of the diners.     They got their chicken, with an extra free helping.

Medieval Masterpiece

A page from an illustrated Armenian manuscript.

King of Kings

Armenian coins depicting Tiridates II (Dertad), King of Kings.
every tile has a tale to tell