Armenians in Israel
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The Armenian community has been resident in the Levant for two millennia. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and the establishment of the State of Israel, a number of Armenians residing in what had been the British Mandate of Palestine took up Israeli citizenship, whereas other Armenian residents of Old City of Jerusalem and the territory captured by Jordan took on the Jordanian nationality.
Armenians in Israel are Armenians with Israeli citizenship. There are around one thousand Armenian-Israelis with Israeli citizenship, residing mainly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Jaffa and Haifa. When taking into account the total number of Armenians in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Armenian community in Israel and the West Bank added, the number of Armenian may total around five thousand.
Thus, after 1948, two groups of Armenians emerged:
- Armenians with Israeli citizenship living within the borders of the state of Israel
- Armenians with Jordanian nationality, in Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter, East Jerusalem, and the Armenians residing in the West Bank.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Armenian population, especially in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, experienced a decrease in its numbers because of emigration.
Diplomatic and trade relations
The Republic of Armenia has diplomatic relations with Israel. According to the CIA World Factbook, Armenia receives 4.8% of its imports from Israel, while Israel receives 7.1% of Armenia's exports.
Although both countries have diplomatic relations, neither maintains an embassy in the other country. Instead, Ambassador Ehud Moshe Eytam, the Israeli ambassador to Armenia is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and visits Yerevan twice a month, while the Armenian ambassador to Israel stays in France.
The Armenian government keeps a consulate in Jerusalem (at 1, Vitron street, Atolot Industrial Zone, Jerusalem). Consul Tsolak Momjian is the Armenian Honorary Consul. Contemporary relations between Israel and Armenia are normally good.
Armenian Genocide and comparison with Holocaust
Armenians and Jews have both suffered genocide; the Armenians in World War I and the Jews in World War II. Some claim that it is only natural that there is affinity and understanding between the two nations.
Despite similarity of these nations' fates, Israel does not officially recognize the Armenian Genocide, but neither denies it. However, any attempts of Israeli "leftist" and "centrist" parties like Merets and Kadima to put the discussion on the Armenian Genocide on Knesset's agenda are attacked and blocked by the Israeli right-wing nationalist parties. Far-rightist party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) claims that Genocide discussion would jeopardize Israeli-Azerbaijan and Israeli-Turkish relations and would hurt its economic and military cooperation with them. Turkey and Azerbaijan are regarded by Israel as "strategically essential partners" for Israel's regional policy in delegitimizing Iran. The Iranian government officially recognises the Armenian Genocide.
Rightist and nationalist parties in Israel strongly attack any comparison of the Armenian Genocide with the Holocaust and regard any such comparison as acts of "worse anti-Semitism", claiming that the scale, gravity and context of the Holocaust cannot even be compared with the Armenian Genocide. In 2008, Josef Shagal, former Israeli parliamentarian from "Israel Our Home", in an interview to Azerbaijani media stated: "I find it is deeply offensive, and even blasphemous to compare the Holocaust of European Jewry during the Second World War with the mass extermination of the Armenian people during the First World War. Jews were killed because they were Jews, but Armenians provoked Turkey and should blame themselves."
Although Turkey is a strategic partner of Israel and one of the few countries in the Middle East that recognizes Israel's right to exist, Israel has yet to recognize the Armenian Genocide. In the years following Armenia's independence, however, Israeli politicians, rabbis, and the country's small Armenian community have called on the Israeli government to do so. At the same time, Turkey has warned of harming ties with Israel if Israel or the United States recognizes the killings as genocide. As of 2008, there has been an ongoing debate regarding recognition in the Knesset with Turkey lobbying hard to prevent it. According to The Jerusalem Post, "many Israelis are eager for their country to recognize the genocide".
Because of the warming of Israeli–Turkish relations and perceived indifference towards the issue of the Armenian Genocide, there was apparent friction between the Jewish and Armenian communities, widely covered in both media worldwide, particularly based on some pro-Turkish declarations made by some Israeli politicians and diplomats about the Armenian Genocide.
Even the US-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was involved in the controversy, after a bill came for discussion in the US Congressional committee about the Genocide. Later on, the ADL somewhat changed its stance about recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reversed its earlier statements in favor of a more accommodating pro-Armenian view.
Armenian Studies in Israel
The Institute of African and Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem established a chair of Armenian Studies program, specializing in study of Armenian language, literature, history and culture as well as the Armenian Genocide.
Almost all Armenians in Israel are Armenian Orthodox, but a very small number are Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals. The Armenian Orthodox remain under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the residing Patriarch under the auspices of Armenian Apostolic Church (See of Holy Echmiadzin), whereas the Armenian Catholics are under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Catholic Church and Patriarchal Vicar (residing at Via Dolorosa 41 - Fourth Station).
The Churches belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church are St. Elias Church in Haifa and Saint Nicholas Church in Jaffa. Religious Armenian-Israelis also pray on special occasions in St. James Cathedral (Sourp Hagopyants) at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (under joint jurisdiction of Armenian Church with other Christian churches) and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (again under joint jurisdiction of the Armenian Church and other Christian churches). The Armenian Church also has the St. Gregory Monastery in Ramleh.
It is noteworthy that fellow Armenian Orthodox communities in Republic of Armenia and worldwide celebrate Christmas and Epiphany on January 6.
This difference between the celebration on January 6 worldwide and January 18 in Israel is because the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem still abides by the ancient Julian calendar, whereas the Armenian Apostolic Church has adopted the newer Gregorian calendar. The Armenian Catholics in Israel celebrate their Christmas on December 25, in line with all other Catholics of the Roman Catholic Church
There are a few Russian-speaking Jews from Armenia in Israel, but they are classified within the former USSR Aliyah so no precise statistics are available prior to 1991 when Armenia restored its independence from the USSR.
- "Armenian Population in the World".
- CIA World Factbook: Armenia
- Comments of Yossi Sarid, Israeli Minister of Education in 2000
- "Депутат парламента Израиля" (Israeli parliamentarian), 28 March 2008.
- "Israel expresses concern over Turkish-Armenian massacre dispute". The Associated Press. 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2008-02-02.
- "A Turkey-Armenia reconciliation?". Los Angeles Times. 2008-04-25. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- David Smith (2008-04-25). "Armenia's "Christian holocaust"". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- The Jewish Daily Forward about the ADL position on Armenian Genocide recognition bill in the US Congress