The Armenian community in Jerusalem faces an existential threat

Bulldozer in the Cows Garden (Photo: Khatchig Bekarian)

By Mary Hoogasian and Bedross Der Matossian

The situation gripping the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem is more than distressing—it is an urgent call to safeguard cultural heritage and defend the rights of the Armenian community within the Holy Land. The ongoing destruction using bulldozers within the Cows Garden in the Armenian Quarter not only wounds the local fabric, but also strikes at the heart of global heritage.

The demolition of this property, steeped in centuries of history and the use of force against those protecting it, sends shockwaves. The Armenian Quarter falls under the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of the Old City, thus demanding an immediate and thorough investigation into the motives behind this grievous act—especially when the entire region is currently embroiled in a major conflict. It is non-negotiable that the rights of the Armenian community be not just acknowledged but fiercely defended.

The Armenian Quarter, representing 1/6 of the Old City, has been inhabited by Armenians since the 4th century during the inception of Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem, adding to its historical and cultural richness. Preserving such heritage is not just a matter of local importance; it holds global significance, contributing to the collective history of humanity. The situation demands a thorough investigation into the motivations behind this illegal destruction and a respectful acknowledgment of the Armenians’ rightful connection to this invaluable piece of history.

What’s at stake

On November 4, 2023, Armenian residents peacefully protested illegal construction within their Quarter. Things turned confrontational when armed settlers arrived, prompting police intervention. The next day, Xana Gardens Ltd., linked to the controversial deal, showed up with Danny Rothman (aka Danny Rubenstein)—the Australian owner of Xana Gardens Ltd. and allegedly demanded the Armenians’ expulsion.

Reports suggest Rothman aimed to purchase 13-percent of the Armenian Quarter for a luxury hotel, endangering many Armenian homes. However, after intense scrutiny by the members of the Armenian community of Jerusalem, the clergy and Armenian lawyers from the United States, the deal was found riddled with discrepancies and declared invalid in the summer of 2023.

The presence of armed settlers in the Armenian Quarter, owned by the Armenian Patriarchate, intensifies tensions between the local Armenian community of Jerusalem and Xana Gardens Ltd. Despite the Armenian Patriarchate nullifying the lease in writing on October 26, 2023, Xana Gardens Ltd. is resorting to aggressive tactics, including property destruction, hiring armed agents and other provocations, leading to recent widespread destruction in the Quarter, including demolishing a stone wall. Already five members from the Armenian community have been arrested and put in house arrest.

We call upon the international community and the media to shed light upon and intervene in this ongoing conflict that is endangering the physical as well as the spiritual presence of the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian Community of Jerusalem, one of the oldest communities in the Holy Land. Failure to take such actions will have severe repercussions on the beleaguered Armenian community of Jerusalem which is standing on its last breath.

Bedross Der Matossian, born and raised in the Old City of Jerusalem, was also the co-founder of the non-profit organization Save the ArQ™. He is professor of Modern Middle East history and the Hymen Rosenberg Professor in Judaic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Mary Hoogasian, an author specializing in young adult fantasy fiction, also contributes to health-related articles. Presently based in Italy, she is editing her third novel while writing and and hosting health retreats. In 2008 she co-founded the nonprofit Save the ArQ™, which is committed to preserving the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. Please publish the actual facts behind this whole sordid story and don’t just focus on what the lessee company is doing in land which they believe they have bought. Where for example is a copy of the lease including the signature on it?

    Has the church received any money for it? The Patriarch must have known about this stupidity at an early stage when the lease was being discussed, so let’s get both sides of the story.

  2. The goons who run Israel would love to expel the Armenians just as much as they want to eradicate the Palestinians.

    • their open policy towards thepalestinians and armenians is an act of open aggression. they are doing nothing more what the nazis did in ww2.the only difference is that the world took notice and internened,

  3. John Aidiniantz has it right. Without all the facts the texts are meaningless. A timeline of the history would be helpful.
    While nominally Israel is in bed with Azerbaijan for oily reasons, the sympathy of the Israeli people is with Armenians, especially vis a vis Turkey.

  4. I only hope that our American Armenian lawyers get down there & save this tragedy
    of injustice…..we need to support strongly our Khaghazis in the old city & preserve
    our heritage of centuries old….

  5. It appears there may have been a betrayal by the Armenian Patriachate. As an attorney, I ask myself, is there not an Armenian attorney in Jerusalem that has good relations with Israel, that could go to the authorites that be and say that it is in the interest of Israel to have Armenians as friends–a strong Chrisian presence, whether Armenian, Roman Catholic, Greek, Coptic–is in Israel’s interest.

  6. Is it stupidity or betrayal? Armenians throughout the diaspora seem to have trust issues with the explanation provided by the patriarch. Same with Pahinyan. Briefly, is it betrayal or (mere) stupidity? In either case, Armenians are losing badly and I for one keep wondering, What’s next?

  7. Update: “Armenian Christians of Jerusalem are in Danger.”
    New interview with Save The ArQ Movement co-Founders Setrag Balian and Hagop Djernazian. From Kevork Almassian’s Syriana Analysis. The discussion starts at minute 3:

    Armenians of Jerusalem are threatened by a controversial land deal! — 12.18.23

    Save The ArQ Movement:

    Legal Defense Fund for Jerusalem Armenians:

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