Armenian clergy in Jerusalem 370.
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Armenians in Jerusalem and around the world marked Armenian Genocide Remembrance
Day on Tuesday with ceremonies commemorating Armenians in Turkey who were killed
between 1915 and 1923.
A remembrance service was held in the Armenian
Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the capital’s Old City on Monday night, and a
requiem service and holy mass were conducted in the St. James Cathedral of the
Armenian Church on Sunday morning, also in the Old City.
that approximately 1.5 million Armenian people living in the eastern Ottoman
Empire died during a series of massacres, killings and death marches into the
Syrian Desert, perpetrated by the Young Turk regime of the Ottoman
Modern Turkish governments have however vehemently denied that
the killings constituted a genocide and claim that the numbers of Armenians
killed were much lower.
On Monday evening, ahead of the commemoration
services, Archbishop Aris Shirvanian of the Armenian Patriarchate addressed
members of the Yedidya Synagogue in Jerusalem to speak about the events
surrounding the genocide and its repercussions on the Armenian
“All Armenians stand together and claim justice and reparations,”
he told The Jerusalem Post
. The Armenian people and the descendants of those
killed have pursued recognition of the genocide since 1965, he
“Until then, the generation of the survivors who had suffered as
children and seen with their own eyes the killings and kidnappings, starvation
and tortures were in a period of mourning, but the new generation has sought
justice for what was done to the Armenian people during this great crime, the
first genocide of the twentieth century.”
Israel has not recognized the
killings as genocide, largely due to concerns about possible damage such a move
could cause regarding its diplomatic relations with Turkey.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that he intended to establish an annual
parliamentary session to mark the Armenian genocide.
A spokesman for
Rivlin told the Post
on Tuesday that although no such session has been formally
scheduled, in light of Rivlin’s position on the issue it is likely to go ahead
in the near future, but did not say if it would happen in the coming Knesset
MK Arye Eldad (National Union), who has made efforts in the
Knesset to officially recognize the genocide, said Israeli recognition “is
getting closer,” especially following the “breaking of the taboo of even
discussing it in the Knesset,” in reference to a session held in the Education
Committee in December.
“The issue is extremely important,” Eldad said.
“There are those who try to deny the Holocaust and so we demand that people are
ethical and recognize that this really happened. So we need to do the
same thing for the Armenians who were killed in their hundreds of thousands, at
the very least we can do something symbolic and mark the day.”
the potential for harming relations with Turkey, Eldad commented that any hopes
that the Turkish government will become more amenable to Israel in the near
future are futile.
Emphasizing that the issue is a “moral and ethical
necessity,” Eldad nevertheless argued that, “there are no relations with Turkey
at the moment so they can’t extort us with the threat that relations will be
Only 21 countries officially recognize the mass killings as
genocide, including Canada, France, Italy and Switzerland, largely due to
Turkish political pressure.
In January, France formally passed a law
outlawing Armenian genocide denial, which prompted Turkey to recall its
Speaking on the issue, Ophir Yarden of the Inter-religious
Coordinating Council in Israel, who arranged for Archbishop Shirvanian to speak
at the Yedidya Synagogue, labeled Israel’s failure to recognize the genocide a
“The lack of recognition is very painful for the
Armenian community,” Yarden said. “As a state in which the Jewish Holocaust is
so significant, it is just plain wrong not to recognize suffering and genocide
of other people.
“Hitler himself spoke about the failure of the
international community to prevent or recognize the Armenian genocide as a
reason not to be concerned about carrying out a genocide against the
Yarden added that the world still has not learned the lessons of
the Holocaust or Armenian genocide, “as we’ve seen similar events in Cambodia,
Darfur, and other places since then.”