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The roots of Jerusalem's Armenian family treeby michael • September 12 2008
The quiet alleys of the Armenian Quarter
Wedged into an modest corner of the Old City behind high walls and locked gates, Jerusalem's tiny and ancient Armenian community has weathered two full millennia amidst the chaos of one of the world's most historically turbulent cities. They've been squeezed by demographic pressure, buffeted by the will of invaders and conquerors, and borne witness to countless wars - but they're still here, still living and dying in the shadow of their venerable cathedral, St. James. And finally their long history and colorful traditions are being investigated and preserved for future generations by a special historical and genealogical study initiated by community members: The Kaghakatzi Family Tree Project.
The project focuses only on a distinct group within the greater Jerusalem Armenian population, the Kaghakatzis ("city dwellers"), whose roots stretch back 2000 years to the first Armenians in the city. The other subgroup of Old City Armenians, descendants of those Armenians who fled to Jerusalem during the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Turks during World War I, are not included, apparently still considered newbies. That's a century of hazing.
Hopefully the project's organizers will share their results with non-Armenian Jerusalemites; even though Armenians are an important part of the city's history, the Armenian Quarter is mostly closed off, with only a poorly-tended (if interesting) museum, a couple restaurants and some gift shops affording the average tourist a peek into Jerusalem's Little Armenia.
Photo of the Armenian Quarter courtesy of Weitwinkelsubjektiv from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
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