News > Holy Land Armenians > Armenian seminarians in Jerusalem will not be deported
Israeli authorities rescind deportation move in case of assaulted Armenian seminarians
By Arthur Hagopian
The Israeli Ministry of Interior has rescinded its decision to deport two Armenian seminarians involved in a fracas with a Jewish youth who had spat on them.
The two, who had been held over by the Israeli police, were set free "without any prior conditions" and allowed to return to the Armenian Patriarchate of St James, church sources said.
The seminarians, Narek Hovannesian and David Harutunian, had arrived in Jerusalem only a year ago to enroll at the seminary of St James, built by the American Armenian philanthropist pair Alex and Mary Manoogian, and prepare for the priesthood.
The decision to deport the two seminarians, who had accosted the Jewish youth after he spat on them twice, and then become involved in a brawl with him, had evoked sharp protests not only among the city's Christians but abroad as well, to the chagrin of Israeli authorities who, according to some sources who refused to be named, "does not need this now."
The Armenian Patriarchate has expressed gratification at the Interior Ministry's change of heart.
Patriarchate sources said the incident was not an isolated one: there had been several instances in the past of Jews spitting on Christian clergy or civilians wearing crosses.
The police had initially arrested the two seminarians and kept them locked up, pending their appearance before a court, but had changed tracks the next day and informed the Patriarchate that the matter had been referred to the Interior Ministry which had decided to deport the two.
The incident comes at a time when the Armenian Patriarchate is in a state of limbo.
Archbishop Torkom Manoogian was elected to the See of St James on a platform of glasnost, born on a wave of refreshing new breezes, and bringing with him a panoply of dreams that would revitalize the moribund Armenian community of Jerusalem.
In the years since his elevation, he has succeeded in carrying out a plethora of reforms, but some of his most important projects, among them the construction of a residential complex and an old-age-home, remain unfulfilled.
One deterrent has been the relentless attrition among members of the Armenians of Jerusalem that has bled the community of a vital chunk of qualified manpower.
The Patriarch has had no option but to tap the ranks of often untrained seminarians in an effort to handle various tasks within the Patriarchate.
His advancing years have also made it necessary for him to delegate some of his duties to his Grand Sacristan, Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian (no relation) whom he has appointed Patriarchal Vicar.
The Armenian Patriarchate traditionally recruits aspiring clergymen from neighboring Arab countries, particularly Lebanon, but the uncertain political atmosphere in the Middle East has shriveled this pipeline.
Photo: From the wholy week procession in Jerusalem.
Source: Palestinian News Network, 10 September 2009 (abridged)