By Bedross Der Matossian
JERUSALEM–While Armenia’s all over the world were celebrating Christmas on January 6–Armenia’s of Jerusalem were celebrating the feast of Saint James the Lesser First Bishop of Jerusalem and the feast of King David.
On the same day–Father Avedis Ipradjian woke up early to go to the Church of Virgin Mary to conduct mass. After completing his duties–he returned back to the Monastery of St. James to take part in the Holy Mass.
"While I was standing in front of the Monastery’s main gate–a Yeshiva student came and spat on me," he said. Father Avedis–who did not resort to any kind of violence–tried to convince the Yeshiva student to go with him to the police station and resolve the issue peacefully. "I told him that he has to apologize for the incident and go with me to the police station–but–on the contrary–he continued cursing at me," Father Avedis said furiously.
While the altercation between Father Avedis and the Yeshiva student was taking place–a taxi carrying four Yeshiva students stopped nearby. The students immediately came to aid of the Yeshiva Student. "Suddenly–one of them attacked me and I still did not resort to any kind of violence," Father Avedis said.
Meanwhile–a representative from the Foreign Ministry–who happened to be in the area and was accompanied by European diplomats and Israeli security–immediately came to the aid of Father Avedis. "The official immediately ran towards me and asked me if I need any help…Then he tried to stop the Yeshiva students–but he himself was assaulted. Consequently–the Israeli security interfered and tried to detain the Yeshiva students," he said.
After the arrival of the police–the four Yeshiva students were arrested and taken to the nearby police station. Father Avedis was also called to give a statement.
Bishop Aris Shirvanian–director of ecumenical and foreign relations of the Patriarchate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land–who had gone directly to the police station–contacted Mr. Mordechai Levi–the newly appointed advisor on Christian affairs to Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. "Right away–Mr. Levi rushed to the police station and condemned the incident," Bishop Shirvanian said.
That same evening–the Jerusalem Post reported that the assault on the priest was immediately condemned by the New York-based Anti Defamation League–and–later–by the Mayor of Jerusalem. "This kind of behavior is outrageous–inappropriate–and goes against all Jewish teachings," said the Co-Director of the ADL’s Israel Office Laura Kam Issacharoff to the Jerusalem Post. Moreover–according to the Jerusalem Post–Mayor Uri Lupolianski also condemned the attack–which he called a "despicable act…likely to harm the delicate relations that exist in Jerusalem." The Mayor added–"Jewish people–who were subject to centuries of persecution abroad–should be the first to show tolerance and moderation to others."
According to Bishop Shirvanian–this kind of assault is not only against the Armenia’s–but is also directed against all the Christian denominations. He added that behavior of the sort is restricted only to an extreme segment of Orthodox Jews.
"During a meeting between the Christian church leaders and the Jewish Orthodox Rabbis last month–the Jewish Orthodox leaders condemned these kinds of acts," Bishop Shirvanian said.
Father Norayr Kazazian–who also rushed to the police station–expressed concern that such incidents are still occurring. "We all have to learn to live peacefully with each other and respect each other. Jerusalem is not only a Holy place for the Jews–but also for Christians and Muslims."
This is the second assault on an Armenian clergy in the last three months. In October 2003–Bishop Nourhan Manougian was assaulted by a Yeshiva student while leading a procession marking the Exaltation of the Holy Cross near the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Old City.