Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

JERUSALEM — An actual property deal in Jerusalem’s Outdated Metropolis, on the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian battle, has despatched the historic Armenian group there right into a panic as residents seek for solutions concerning the feared lack of their houses to a mysterious investor.

The 99-year lease of some 25% of the Outdated Metropolis’s Armenian Quarter has touched delicate nerves within the Holy Land and sparked an argument extending far past the Outdated Metropolis partitions. The fallout has pressured the very best authority of the Armenian Orthodox Church to cloister himself in a convent and prompted a disgraced priest who’s allegedly behind the deal to flee to a Los Angeles suburb.

“In the event that they promote this place, they promote my coronary heart,” Garo Nalbandian, an 80-year-old photojournalist, stated of the Ottoman-era barracks the place he has lived for 5 many years amongst a dwindling group of Armenians. Their ancestors got here to Jerusalem over 1,500 years in the past after which after 1915, when Ottoman Turks killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in what’s broadly considered the primary genocide of the twentieth century.

Alarm over the lease unfold in April, following a shock go to by Israeli land surveyors. Phrase obtained round that an Australian-Israeli investor, whose firm signal appeared on the positioning, deliberate to rework the car parking zone and limestone fortress of Armenian residences and outlets into an ultra-luxury resort.

As anger, confusion and fears of doable evictions mounted, the Armenian patriarchate — the physique managing the group’s civil and non secular affairs — acknowledged that the church had signed away the patch of land. The Armenian patriarch, Nourhan Manougian, alleged {that a} now-defrocked priest bore full duty for the “fraudulent and deceitful” deal that the patriarch stated befell with out his full data.

The admission infected passions within the Armenian Quarter, the place activists decried the deal as a risk to the group’s longtime presence in Jerusalem. Jordan, with its historic ties to Jerusalem’s Christian websites, stated it feared for the “way forward for the holy metropolis.”

Palestinian officers accused Manougian of serving to Israel in a decades-long battle between Israel and the Palestinians over a metropolis that either side declare as their capital. For Palestinians, such struggles over actual property are the centerpiece of the decades-old battle, emblematic of what they see as a wider Israeli effort to take away them from strategic areas in east Jerusalem.

“From a Palestinian standpoint, that is treason. From a peace activist standpoint, this undermines doable options to the battle,” stated Dimitri Diliani, president of the Nationwide Christian Coalition of the Holy Land.

In a dramatic transfer, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II suspended recognition of Manougian, the patriarch who has served for the previous decade in what is often a lifelong place. That renders him unable to signal contracts, make transactions and make selections within the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

The priest who coordinated the deal, Baret Yeretsian, was deposed, assaulted by a mob of indignant younger Armenians and whisked away by Israeli police earlier than in search of refuge in southern California. Manougian has barricaded himself within the Armenian convent, unwilling or unable to be seen publicly, based on residents.

“This quarter is every little thing to me. It is the one place we’ve for Armenians to assemble within the Holy Land,” stated 22-year-old group chief Hagop Djernazian. “We’ve to combat for it.”

The quarter is dwelling to some 2,000 Armenians with the identical standing as Palestinians in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — residents however not residents, successfully stateless. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, the place the Outdated Metropolis is situated, after capturing it in 1967, a transfer not acknowledged internationally.

For the previous month — most lately final Friday — protesters have fashioned a human chain across the quarter and gathered underneath Manougian’s window, shouting “traitor” and demanding that he come clear about who has leased the land and the way.

Whereas the Armenian church has refused to reveal particulars concerning the sale, Yeretsian recognized the investor as Australian-Israeli businessman Danny Rothman. Because the church’s actual property supervisor, Yeretsian stated he was appearing on the request of the patriarch.

There may be little or no data obtainable about Rothman, who additionally has used the final title Rubinstein, based on a 2016 Cyprus regulatory resolution fining him for falsifying his educational background.

His LinkedIn web page describes him as chairman of a resort firm referred to as Xana Capital. Data present the agency — fashioned within the United Arab Emirates — was registered in Israel in July 2021. Weeks later, a dozen Armenian monks raised the primary alarm a couple of property deal being struck with out their consent.

An indication lately popped up marking the Armenian car parking zone because the property of Xana Capital.

Rothman, who relies in London, declined to remark when reached by The Related Press. “I by no means get interviewed by the press. I am a non-public individual,” he stated earlier than hanging up.

The self-exiled priest, Yeretsian, stated that Rothman plans to develop a high-end resort within the Armenian Quarter. The undertaking, he added, could be managed by the One&Solely resort firm primarily based in Dubai, within the United Arab Emirates, which established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020. The deal seems to be one of the crucial high-profile — and controversial — to return out of the enterprise ties that had been cast underneath the U.S-brokered agreements generally known as the Abraham Accords.

Israel’s Overseas Ministry declined to remark, citing the political sensitivity.

Kerzner Worldwide, proprietor of One&Solely Resorts, additionally declined to remark. The Dubai-based firm stated solely that it’s “all the time exploring alternatives to develop its portfolio of ultra-luxury resorts.”

Famend Israeli architect Moshe Safdie informed the AP that Rothman would fund the undertaking and that he would design it. Building, he stated, would begin following excavations on the car parking zone. It’s unclear whether or not residents shall be evicted, however the patriarchate has promised to help any residents who’re displaced.

The saga displays the wrestle over politics and actual property that has bedeviled the Holy Land for hundreds of years.

Jewish traders in Israel and overseas lengthy have sought to purchase east Jerusalem properties. The Armenian Quarter is fascinating as a result of it abuts the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest place the place Jews can pray.

Their purpose is to broaden the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem, cementing Israeli management of the a part of town claimed by Palestinians as their capital.

Scandals involving land gross sales to Jewish settlers have beforehand embroiled the Greek Orthodox Church, the custodian of many Christian websites within the area.

Twenty years in the past, the Greek Church offered two Palestinian-run lodges within the Outdated Metropolis to international firms appearing as fronts for a Jewish settler group. The secretive offers led to the downfall of the Greek patriarch and prompted worldwide uproar.

Yeretsian, in California, dismissed fears of an Israeli settler take-over of the Armenian Quarter as “propaganda” primarily based solely on Rothman’s Jewish id.

“The intention was by no means to Judaize the place,” he stated, claiming that Rothman has no political agenda. He insisted that the Armenian patriarch was absolutely engaged within the long-running negotiations and personally signed off on the contract.

“I did my job faithfully in the very best curiosity of the patriarchate,” he stated, declining to supply additional particulars concerning the lease that he stated expires after a century. The patriarchate declined to say what it will do with the cash from the deal.

In the meantime, Jerusalem’s Armenians — lengthy dominated by international powers, displaced by wars and squeezed between Israelis and Palestinians — are stuffed with nagging dread.

“Our lands had been acquired inch by inch with blood and sweat,” stated 26-year-old resident Satrig Balian. “With one signature, they got away.”

By Admin

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