ARMENIAN JERUSALEM WEBSITE SEEKS TO CHRONICLE COMMUNITY'S HISTORY
|From Arthur Hagopian
Sydney, Oct 20 - The creators of the website originally aimed at preserving the history, culture and traditions of a selected segment of the Armenians of Jerusalem, the "Kaghakatzis", are revamping the site.
Registered under the URL www.kaghakatzi.org when first launched a few years ago, the site has now been renamed www.armenian-jerusalem.come
The change of name reflects the decision of the project administrators to expand its scope and enhance its content, a move designed to encompass the whole of the Armenians of Jerusalem, and not just the "Kaghakatzi" Armenians.
The "Kaghakatzis" ("native" or "city dwellers") are the descendants of the first Armenians to settle in the Holy Land, some 2,000 years ago. They had come with the conquering armies of the Armenian king of kings, Tigranes the Great.
Some were legionna ires, part of the garrisons Tigranes left behind, others adventurers, colonists, who had learned about the strange land overflowing with milk and honey from some of the 10,000 Jewish captives Tigranes was to take back to Armenia with him, and were eager to explore it.
Created more than five years ago, the raison d'etre of this unique website initially focused primarily on the preservation of the multifaceted history, culture and traditions of a vital component of the Jerusalem fabric, one that gave the city its first printing press and photographic studio.
The site is now being revamped to chronicle the story of the whole Armenian presence in Jerusalem.
The "Kaghakatzi" (a derivative of the Armenian word "Kaghak" for "city") have acquired this nickname (Armenians are notorious for creating and attaching colorful nicknames) due to the fact that they are the original Armenian residents of Jerusalem. Their "Vanketzi" (from "Vank", "convent") cousins, who live mainly within the perimeters of the Convent of St James, arrived much later, in their flight from the Turkish genocide.
The organizers realize this is a mammoth project.
"It's more a labor of love," one of the organizers says. "We are practically restarting from scratch, streamlining the website, redesigning pages to facilitate indexing by the major search engines, introducing new content, sometimes 'rewiring' whole pages."
The project relies heavily on contributions from current and former Armenians of Jerusalem. "Since this is a non-profit, cultural enterprise, we do not seek any financial support from Armenian community members. It's a matter of principle," the organizers say.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, under the leadership of the late Patriarch Torkom Manoogian, has been a staunch supporter, allowing one of Jerusalem's leading photographers, Garo Nalbandian, to capture over 250 pages of detailed records of births, deaths and marriages of Armenians in Jerusalem.
However, those records go back only to about 1840.
"No doubt we'll need to delve into the Patriarchate's older archives to learn more about the saga of the Armenians of Jerusalem. But finding and research the relevant material could take years," the organizers concede.
"That's all right. We've got the ball rolling now. Others will have to pick it up and go with it. The website is up and running, that's the main thing."
The organizers are confident the new Armenian patriarch, Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, will be as supportive of the project as his predecessor.
One of the new features that is being posted in the revamped website is the profiling of prominent Jerusalem Armenians, past and present, who have contributed significantly to the enhancement of the Armenian presence in the city.
Among these is the late composer and conductor, Ohan Dourian, who was born in the Armenian Quarter, in a home abutting the Sts Tarkmachantz parochial school
The grand piano upon which his fingers ran riot in celestial celebration occupied pride of place in a single room long after he had left Jerusalem to further his studies, and gain worldwide recognition, in Armenia and France.
Haig Khatchadourian, world renowned philosopher and man of letters, who is a very close relative of Ohan and used to live in a "high-rise" a stone's throw away from Ohan, is another prominent face that will be featured on the Jerusalem Armenian website.
The story of the inception of the incomparable Armenian ceramics industry, inspired and spearheaded by the Balian and Karakashian dynasties, is also being told here, complete with full color graphic reproductions of some of their best creations.
Manoug Manougian, who has the unequivocal reputation of being the first man in the whole of the Middle East to launch a rocket successfully (albeit an experimental one), will also have a story to tell.
"That is what we need to make this website rock, people who will tell us their stories, lend us their records, archives, pictures, recollections," the organizers say.
"We are getting some, but it's still a trickle," they aver. "There's so much more out there the Armenians of Jerusalem can regale and amaze the world with."
Like the tale of the unsung hero who picked up a huge unexploded bomb that had landed in a kitchen and that towered over his diminutive size, and carried it bodily down a long flight of stairs, to dispose of it far away fr om the huddle of refugees who had sought sanctuary in the Convent of St James, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.