By Yolande Knell
JERUSALEM (BBC News) — Wearing peaked black headdresses and long robes, a procession of Armenian priests is led along the stone streets of Jerusalem’s Old City by two suited men in felt tarboosh hats with ceremonial walking sticks.
Quietly, apart from the tapping of the sticks, they file into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for prayers.
Nowadays, Jerusalem is at the core of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But Armenians have been here since the 4th century, when their country was the first to adopt Christianity as a national religion.
They have a share in the Old City’s holiest Christian sites and their own quarter tucked away in its south-western corner, home to some 2,000 Armenians.
But now the community here feels under threat because of a murky real estate deal by its own Church leaders. Amid angry protests, the Armenian patriarch has hidden himself away and a disgraced priest, who denies any wrongdoing, has fled to California.