BY ARTHUR HAGOPIAN
JERUSALEM—The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem recently lodged a strong protest against a decision by the Israeli Ministry of Interior to deport two seminarians involved in a fight with a young Jewish man who had spat on a religious procession in which they were involved.
The spokesman for the Patriarchate, Father Pakrad Bourjekian, noted that this was not the first time Armenian or Christian clergymen in Jerusalem had faced unprovoked aggression.
The clergy aren’t the only ones singled out, he said. Lay members of the Armenian community who wear or display crosses are also victims of such attacks.
The latest provocation occurred on Sunday evening, Sept. 6, as Armenian seminarians returned to the Convent of St. James after holding their weekly procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
As they neared the convent, a young Jew wearing a kipa spat on them.
One of the seminarians accosted the youth, who responded with another blob of spit, leading to a brawl that ended when police arrested two of the Armenian seminarians and held them for 24 hours.
That same evening, the police informed the Armenian Patriarchate that the matter would be dealt with in court the next morning.
At court, however, the Armenians were informed that the police had referred the matter to the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, which had decided to deport the two seminarians, Bourjekian said.
Spitting on Christians, he added, has been occurring for the past several years, and the Ministry and police have failed to take any measures to stop it.
In addition to this “harassment by civilians,” Bourjekian said, the Ministry intentionally delays renewing the visas of Armenian monks and priests who were born in Lebanon, Syria, or Jordan, “causing them undue distress.”
He voiced concern that “this kind of persecution” against the Armenians might escalate to include not only seminarians but priests, bishops, and archbishops as well.