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Armenia–Israel relations are bilateral relations between Armenia and Israel. During the period of 1993–2007 Armenia was covered from the Embassy of Israel in Georgia. In 1996 Mr. Tsolak Momjian was appointed as Honorary Consul of Armenia in Jerusalem. Since 2007 the residence of the Embassy of Israel to Armenia moved to Jerusalem and in October 2010 Shmuel Meirom was appointed as Ambassador of Israel to Armenia. In 2012 Mr. Armen Melkonian was appointed as Ambassador of Armenia to Israel with residence in Cairo. In October 2012 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Israel Mr. Armen Melkonyan presented his credentials to the Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Armenians in Israel
The Armenian community has been residing in the Levant for around two millennia. According to Yoav Loeff, lector of Armenian language and history at the Hebrew University, the Armenian presence in Jerusalem dates back to 301 AD, thanks to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, that dates back to the Apostolic Age. Tigranes the Great, under whom Armenia reached its greatest extent, deported thousands of Jews into Armenia in the 1st century BC. Israel itself is home to the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem was founded in 638 and it is located in the Armenian Quarter, the smallest of the four quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to a 2006 study, 790 Armenians live in the Old City alone.
One of the earliest mentions of the Armenians and the Jews is in the 1723 book Travels through Europe, Asia, and into parts of Africa by French traveler Aubry de La Motraye, where the author writes that the Armenians and Jews are "reckon'd more honest" compared to the Greeks in the Ottoman Empire.
Roughly 25,000 resided in the former British Mandate of Palestine by the time of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, but the majority fled the area in the ensuing violence. After the establishment of the State of Israel, most of the remaining Armenian community took up Israeli citizenship and settled in the Old City's Armenian Quarter.
Israel supported Azerbaijan with weapons and ammunition during the Nagorno-Karabakh War against Armenia in the early 1990s, for geopolitical reasons. The threat of the Islamic Republic of Iran was taken into account. The Journal of Turkish Weekly has stated that the relations between Israel and Armenia deteriorated because of this exact reason, although the blame was partly on the Jews of Azerbaijan as well, therefore creating all sorts of conspiracy theories from unscrupulous sectors of the Armenian society.
There have been several spitting incidents during recent years in the Old City of Jerusalem, usually by some Haredi Jews who study at yeshiva. The Jerusalem Post reported in 2009 that out of all Christians living there, Armenians were most often spat on by the ultra-Orthodox Jews. In 2011, several instances of spitting and verbal attacks on Armenian clergymen by Haredi Jews were reported in the Old City. The Jerusalem district police responded: "All complaints of mutual assault are treated with the utmost severity. In the past, more than one case ended with charges being filed and the deportation of clergy involved in assault. As opposed to the situation about three years ago, the frequency of spitting has declined dramatically."  Nourhan Manougian, the current Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem (an independent and self-governing Christian patriarchate that dates back to the Apostolic Age), stated in 2013 that If Israel recognizes the Armenian Genocide it won't be the end of the world and that Armenians in Jerusalem are currently being treated as third-class citizens, referring to the bureaucracy in the State of Israel.
Armenians in Israel are ethnic Armenians with Israeli citizenship. There are currently 3,000 Armenians living in Israel, including 1,000 in Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter. Around one thousand Armenian-Israelis have Israeli citizenship, residing mainly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Jaffa and Haifa. Additionally "The Institute of African and Asian Studies" at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem established a chair of Armenian Studies programme, specialising in the study of the Armenian language, literature, history and culture as well as the Armenian Genocide. Jewish Virtual Library describes Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter as follows:
Unlike other Quarters in the Old City, the Armenian Quarter is well preserved. The St. James Convent is a complex of several churches with open spaces and gardens covered with a variety of greenery. The Patriarchate building next door is an impressive structure consisting of the Patriarch's residence, gold embossed throne room and several offices. Behind its main gate, the convent contains priest's quarters, a library building, a museum, printing press, elementary and high schools and residences, youth and social clubs and residential shelters for the poor and employees of the Patriarchate. Currently the Theological Seminary is located outside the convent across the street from the main gate.
Much of Jerusalem's artistic heritage has been influenced by Armenian ceramics and tile-painting.
Jewish community in Armenia
Prior to the 1996 discovery of a medieval Jewish cemetery, it was believed that there had been no Jewish presence in Armenia before modern times. A team of Armenian and Israeli historians and archaeologists excavated the site of the original discovery and managed to find 64 more graves. It was ultimately determined that the Jewish community of Armenia dated back to at least the 13th century. Bishop Mkrtchyan, who first discovered the cemetery, commented, "At a time when you can't imagine that a country... in Europe either helped create or didn't destroy a Jewish settlement... It is fantastic how they could gather cultural, architectural symbolism of Jewish Armenians... and they were connected, and built one of the strongest kingdoms during time of Mongols."
Subsequently, historians conjectured that the first Jews arrived in Armenia shortly after the destruction of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem. They lived relatively peacefully alongside the Armenian Christians and continue to do so, with anti-Semitic incidents being a rarity. Many immigrated to Israel following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and 2002 estimations place the number of ethnic Jews living in Armenia at below 1,000.
Officially, there is only a small Russified Jewish community of 800 Jews in Armenia still remaining, mostly living in Yerevan, without taking into account the Subbotniks who reside around Sevan. Rimma Varzhapetian-Feller, the head of the Jewish Community of Armenia, has stated that she always felt proud of Armenia when she met fellow Jews from other parts of the former Soviet Union, and that “We always declare everywhere that there has never been antisemitism in Armenia, that Armenia is a good place for Jews to live and, more importantly, that Armenia is quite a stable country in political and social respects”. The first instances of antisemitism in Armenia occurred in September 2004 when, for the first time in Armenia's history, the Joint Tragedies Memorial in Yerevan was desecrated.
On 23 October 2004, the head of the Department for Ethnic and Religious Minority Issues Hranoush Kharatyan accused Israeli leaders of promoting intolerance toward non-Jews, in response to an incident regarding the Archbishop of Jerusalem Nourhan Manougian and a yeshiva student, in which latter spat on him during a religious procession in the city. The yeshiva student eventually apologized to the Armenian Archbishop for spitting.
During her visit to Armenia in 2012, the Israeli Minister of Agriculture Orit Noked stated, "We are like each other with our history, character, with our small number of population and having communities abroad."
Since independence, Armenia has received support from Israel and today remains one of its trade partners. According to the CIA World Factbook, Armenia receives 4.8% of its imports from Israel, which means that Israel receives 7.1% of Armenia's exports.
Israel and Armenia have maintained diplomatic relations since the latter's independence from the Soviet Union in 1992. From 1993 to 2007, the Armenian embassy to Israel was located in Georgia, though Tsolak Momjian was appointed as Honorary Consul of Armenia in Jerusalem in 1996. The embassy was eventually moved to Jerusalem.
There have been several high-level official visits to Israel by Armenians in the last several years. In January 2000, former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan traveled to Israel and met with high-ranking Israeli officials, including former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The two sides pledged to strengthen relations and signed agreements on health and bilateral investment. In 2003, the Catholicos of All Armenian Karekin II visited the then Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger who accepted an invitation by Karekin II to visit Armenia, a trip that he made in 2005, including a visit to the Tsitsernakaberd (the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan). While doing so he formally recognised the Armenian Genocide as an historical fact.
In 2014, Shmuel Meirom, the Ambassador of Israel to Armenia with residence in Jerusalem, declared that Israel is willing to have a visa-free regime with Armenia soon, applying this directly to holders of diplomatic passports.
|December 1994||Israel||Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vahan Papazian visits|
|February 1995||Israel||President Robert Kocharyan of the Republic of Armenia visits|
|October 1998||Israel||Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanian visits|
|January 2000||Jerusalem||Armenian President Robert Kocharyan meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Ezer Weizman, Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg, Minister of Interior Natan Sharansky, and Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert|
|November 2005||Yerevan||Israel's chief rabbi Yona Metzger visits Armenia and declares that the Israeli Jewish community recognizes the Armenian Genocide|
|August 2011||Yerevan||Israeli diplomats headed by Foreign Ministry official Pinchas Avivi and Armenian diplomats headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian meet to discuss the relationship between their countries|
|April 2012||Yerevan||Israeli Agriculture Minister Orit Noked meets with Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and Agriculture Minister Sergo Karapetian|
|July 2013||Yerevan||Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan meets with Yair Auron, an Israeli historian who specializes in genocide studies|
Armenian Genocide denial
Israel does not officially recognize The Armenian Genocide. The recognition of the Genocide became a subject of debate in Israel in the years following the independence of Armenia in 1991 from the Soviet Union, with several citizens, ranging from politicians, rabbis, and the Armenian community calling on Israel to formally do so. At the same time, Turkey has warned of harming its ties with Israel, if either Israel or the United States recognize the mass extermination as a genocide. Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 2003-2013, paid a visit to Tsitsernakaberd in 2005, also known as the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan and while doing so formally recognised the Armenian Genocide as an historical fact. In October 2008, the Knesset voted to have a parliamentary committee convene on the Armenian Genocide at the initiative of then-Meretz chairman Haim Oron, paving the way for the sessions in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. By its own initiative, the government of Turkey kept on lobbying to prevent it going on further. According to The Jerusalem Post, "many Israelis are eager for their country to recognize the Genocide". During the summer of 2011, the Knesset held its first discussion on the matter. By a unanimous vote of 20-0, Israel's Parliament approved an open, public session on the issue by the Education, Culture and Sports Committee, at the request of Meretz Knesset member Zahava Gal-On, and stopped the passing of a bill put forward by Gilad Erdan, an Israeli cabinet minister and close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leaving the subject aside for political reasons. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who was among the bill's supporters, stated "It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples." He has told an Israel-based Armenian action committee that he intends to introduce an annual parliamentary session to mark the Armenian Genocide.
The State of Israel has yet to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and the Armenian community of Jerusalem has vocalized its beliefs that this is due to fear of jeopardizing diplomatic relations with Turkey. Yair Auron, an Israeli historian, scholar and expert specializing on Holocaust and Genocide studies, has corroborated the fact that Israel is worried about hurting its current trade relations with Turkey and wants to, as a side note, to retain the uniqueness of the Holocaust.
One of the major primary sources narrating the Armenian Genocide, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1918), was written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr., a Jewish-American lawyer who served as the Ambassador of the United States to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916. On the other hand, Raphael Lemkin, a famous Polish lawyer of Jewish descent, coined the concept of Genocide in 1943 as a Crime against humanity. He created the word while thinking of the Armenian tragedy. Arguably the most famous novel discussing the Genocide, titled The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), was written by Franz Werfel, an Austrian of Jewish descent.
In 2001, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres described the Armenian Genocide as "meaningless." In response, Dr. Israel Charny, an expert historian, current Executive Director and one of the founders, among Elie Wiesel (a Holocaust survivor), of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem accused Peres of going "beyond a moral boundary that no Jew should allow himself to trespass." In his letter to Peres, Charny stated:
|“||It seems that because of your wishes to advance very important relations with Turkey, you have been prepared to circumvent the subject of the Armenian genocide in 1915–1920 ... it may be that in your broad perspective of the needs of the state of Israel, it is your obligation to circumvent and desist from bringing up the subject with Turkey, but, as a Jew and an Israeli, I am ashamed of the extent to which you have now entered into the range of actual denial of the Armenian genocide, comparable to denials of the Holocaust.||”|
In 2008, Yosef Shagal, an Azerbaijani-born former Israeli parliamentarian of the Far-right political party Yisrael Beiteinu, which was founded by immigrants from the former Soviet Union (including Jews from Azerbaijan) stated the following in an interview to the Azerbaijani media: "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./.../ [With Armenians] the picture is principally different - seeking to establish the state and national independence, Turkish Armenians sided with Russian Empire, which was at war with Turkey".
Rima Varzhapetyan-Feller, the president of the Jewish community of Armenia, wrote:"It is no secret what methods the dictator of Azerbaijan is using to mold opinions in the West; in fact, they've been mentioned by many highly influential publications, such as The New York Times in September 2014 and Foreign Policy magazine in June 2014. Influential international Jewish structures should not allow themselves to get involved in such speculations."
Furthermore,Feller wrote: "In the 1990’s, when bandits from the People’s Front of Azerbaijan organized and committed pogroms against the Armenian population in Azerbaijan, one of the slogans used was: ‘Azerbaijan will prosper without Jews and Armenians.’ No matter how hard the authorities of Azerbaijan try to present themselves as friends of Israel, they cannot be friends of the Jewish people. If there is anyone who doubts this argument, I urge them to read the publications on the numerous, flagrant human rights violations by the Aliyev Administration, or, at least, the articles on the funding of anti-Jewish demonstrations in Europe. There is no doubt that Azerbaijan is using its relations with Iran and Israel, and presenting itself in Israel as the most reliable regional partner in its policy against Iran. Clearly, the leaders of Azerbaijan are playing a dangerous game if they think they will succeed in using Israel and world Jewry to promote their personal interests."
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Tigranes took a large number of Jews captive, and deported them to Armavir and Vardges on the Ksakh river, which became a great commercial center.
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Of all Old City Christians, the Armenians get spat on most frequently because their quarter stands closest to those hot spots.
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For years, consecutive governments had blocked attempts by MKs to raise the subject of recognizing the genocide out of concern that such recognition could damage relations with Ankara. This year, however, the government did not block the hearing.
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Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Monday that he wanted to convene an annual parliamentary session of the full Knesset to mark the Armenian genocide of 1915 and 1916 at the hands of the Turks. 'It is my duty as a Jew and Israeli to recognize the tragedies of other peoples,' Rivlin said, speaking to an Israel-based Armenian action committee.
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