By Ilan Ben Zion
JERUSALEM (AP) — A hundred years after taking in scores of children whose parents were killed in the Armenian Genocide, a 19th-century orphanage in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter has reopened its doors as a museum documenting the community’s rich, if pained, history.
The Mardigian Museum showcases Armenian culture and tells of the community’s centuries-long connection to the holy city. At the same time, it is a memorial to around 1.5 million Armenians killed by the Ottoman Turks around World War I, in what many scholars consider the 20th century’s first genocide.
Director Tzoghig Karakashian said the museum is meant to serve as “a passport for people to know about the Armenians” and to understand their part of Jerusalem’s history.
The museum reopened in late 2022 after a more than five-year renovation project. Before that, the building — originally a pilgrim guesthouse built in the 1850s — served as a monastery, an orphanage for children who survived the genocide, a seminary and ultimately a small museum and library.
Jerusalem is home to a community of around 6,000 Armenians, many of them descendants of people who fled the genocide. Many inhabit one of the historic Old City’s main quarters, a mostly enclosed compound abutting the 12th-century Armenian cathedral of St. James.