By Ruth Wasserman Lande
JERUSALEM (Jerusalem Post) — Yesterday, I celebrated my birthday. Having chosen a rather unusual way in which to celebrate it, I had a rare, yet intriguing, glimpse into the life an Armenian priest, and an even rarer chance to examine, from within, the underlying tensions between Armenian, Greek Orthodox and Catholic Christians in an already complex Jewish capital…
We began by entering the usually unyielding Armenian priests’ compound in the Armenian Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. Quite astounded, I discovered wide parking lots behind secret gateways, in an area where it is barely possibly to pass by, even with a small car. Likewise, the living quarters of approximately 100 Armenian monks, as well as approximately 150 more Armenians, who live with their families within the premises, were wondrously opened to us, a Jewish Israeli couple, by our friend, an Armenian Lebanese monk, who has been living in Israel for the past 30 years.
The Armenians follow their own Archbishop and Pope, whose seat is in faraway Armenia and provide services and protection to those following the Ethiopian and the Coptic Churches in Israel. Their undeclared enemies are neither the State of Israel, nor Islam, at least not in Israel, yet the Greek Orthodox Church and to a lesser degree, the Catholic Church in this country.
Following a heart-to-heart chat about the complexities of our region, I probed deeper into the life experiences of our friend, whose family members remain in Lebanon, dreading the likes of ISIS and other evils. Once more, it became abundantly clear to me, that despite all criticism of- and complexities in the tiny State of Israel, there remain certain pillars of virtue which are remarkable, one of which is the freedom of religion which is granted in general and to Christians in particular.