Every year, one college-aged member of each parish in the Diocese is chosen to make the pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem. The nine-day journey consists of frequent church visits and Bible study, in addition to many hours spent sightseeing all across the Judean Desert. This year, the travelers’ itinerary included Bethlehem, Jericho, and the Dead Sea.
From St. George’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Hartford, Conn., Sara DerAprahamian and Anna Abalyan made the voyage this summer as part of the 40-person ensemble. Abalyan’s sister, Karina, had made the trip two years prior and recommended that her sister go, too. “I was really excited to see the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem. It was such a surreal experience,” said Abalyan. DerAprahamian agreed. “I would definitely recommend that every Armenian try to go at least once, especially with the Diocese!”
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian accompanied the 20-somethings and performed various prayers, including the Blessing of the Water ceremony at the Jordan River. At the beginning of the trip, Barsamian had a message to convey to the eager students. “You too have reached [the place of Jesus Christ’s birth]. You are having this experience. And we as a group will be able to share that experience, as we embark on a journey that has the power to shape us, and direct us, throughout our lives.”
Many of the past participants say they were enlightened by the experience. “I have been to Armenia before, but there is just something special about this community of very few, devoted Armenians. They are keeping alive one of the most ancient communities in the world,” said Shant Ghokasiyan, who participated in the trip in 2010. “Those who support the program are doing a good thing for these people and for us, the new generation of Diaspora Armenians, so that we can one day do our part and help out, too,” added Shant, whose father is the Deacon at St. George’s.
The program is funded every year by benefactors who wish to help the Jerusalem-Armenian community by engaging young Armenians from all over the world.