YEREVAN — Yaron Weiss is an Israeli pro-Armenian activist. He was born in 1976, in Israel, to a family from Hungary. Currently he lives in the small town of Kefar Weradim in the north of Israel with his wife and four children. Yaron works in a large Telecom company; during the tourist season he works as tourist guide in Armenia and Georgia. He considers Armenia one of the most attractive countries in the world with great potential for tourism. Yaron always raises awareness on Armenia and Artsakh in Israel, making an effort to promote issues such as recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Israel, always claiming that there is no justification for the government of Israel that it has not recognized the Armenian Genocide, also addressing the Israeli government to stop supplying weapons to Azerbaijan.
I met Yaron during his last visit to Armenia. This tall, dynamic gentleman with intellectual face came to the meeting wearing a T-shirt with Monte Melkonian’s portrait.
Yaron, you just came from Artsakh, a land you call Heaven. How was your trip this time?
I have been traveling to Armenia and Artsakh since 2012. This is my third visit after the war. For me Artsakh is a symbol of a nation, people, living in their region for thousands of years and still struggling for not their independence, but for their survival. They started their struggle in late 1980s, and they say that the collapse of Soviet Union started from Artsakh. So when I visited this region for the first time, I was curious to visit Artsakh. I fell in love with Artsakh and stayed there for three weeks. I walked through the “Janaparh Trail” through mountains, valleys and villages of Artsakh, staying at homes, enjoying beautiful panoramas and the hospitability of a very kind people. Everyone treated me as a family member, as I am one of them. So I felt it to be my duty to talk about Armenia and Artsakh in my country and to do whatever I can to support this people. I started to work as tour guide in Armenia for Israelis in my free time. In Israel there is a lobby for any nation, many Georgian and Azerbaijani immigrants support their interests, especially Azerbaijan, which send lots of money to bribe the politicians and media, but almost no one speaks for Armenia, not even about tourism. I started one of the first Facebook page on Armenia and wrote articles in Hebrew to show the country. I published an article about Artsakh in the most important website in Israel and then I became a kind of expert on Armenian issues, and people started to contact me. I made a connection with the Armenian community; they support Armenian interests, but my advantage is not being Armenian and I am not getting paid for my pro-Armenian activities. The big difference between me and Israelis who support Azerbaijan is that I pay money to support Armenia, while they get money or benefits for their support, so anything they say is worth nothing.
I am sure you are on Azerbaijan’s blacklist.
Nothing will ever stop me from supporting Artsakh, especially during and after the 44-day war. I organized protests, gave interviews to the media about our agenda, as some Israeli media supports Azerbaijan. They invited me to talk about it from our perspective — although I am not Armenian, but I say “our” as I consider myself a patriot of Armenia and Artsakh. Along with the Armenian community, we founded an organization for assisting Armenia and Artsakh. Last year in May I visited there for the first time after war. At that time people said they understand their new situation: they are survivors and they were ready to build their new future. They were shocked, but still optimistic. In last September when I came for the second time, it looked like they are kind of tired of this new situation with refugees living in temporary shelters, being less motivated. And now, people seem a bit depressed, as all the young people are on the border, not with us as in previous times, and you feel in the atmosphere that something is going to happen. People are really anxious that maybe there is no future, so why open businesses, build houses, if in a few months the situation might change. The state of affairs is similar what is now happening in Ukraine. So my message is to the world, to the Armenian and Russian passport holders, as they can enter Artsakh — now it is the time, the only choice: come to Artsakh, come to help this brave land with your skills. If you just visit, of course you support the economy, but let people in Artsakh to feel they are not alone. Now they feel they are abandoned. I don’t want to talk about politics here, but my feeling was that people in Artsakh think that the Armenian government and the Diaspora abandoned them, not to mention the Western world. We cannot control the Armenian government, but at least we can bring our message to the Diaspora. What really hurts me is that many people from the Diaspora, also in Israel, just fight on Facebook, writing that “we will not give any inch of Artsakh,” but they never visit there.