Peace Now: Attempt for the Establishment of a New Settlement in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City
There is growing concern over an attempt to seize one of the last undeveloped plots in Jerusalem’s Old City for the establishment of a new settlement.
In recent days, representatives of a Jewish-Australian businessman and his partners are attempting to undertake development and infrastructure work in the parking lot of the Armenian Quarter, claiming to have acquired the land from the Armenian Church.
The Armenian community vehemently opposes these activities, claiming that the businessperson is affiliated with settler organizations. They also argue that the parking lot acquisition was illegal and call for the annulment of the agreement between the Patriarchy and the buyers.
The struggle over the future of the parking lot has been ongoing for several years. The area, of approximately 11 dunams, is situated between the Armenian Church and the walls of the Old City.
In the initial stage, the area was designated as a parking lot in 2020, funded by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority.
About a year later, in 2021, an agreement was reached to lease the area for 98 years between members of the Patriarchy, probably including the Patriarch himself, and a foreign businessman for the construction of a hotel.
The Armenian community opposed the sale, claiming it was a fraud and illegal transaction. The community is concerned that the businessmen have affiliations with settler groups aiming to transform the last undeveloped area in the Armenian Quarter into a new Jewish settlement.
The Armenian Quarter is the smallest quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and has belonged to the Armenian Church for centuries. Preserving the character of the Armenian Quarter and preventing settlers from entering its territory is crucial not only for political reasons but also for identity and community preservation.
Peace Now: “The settlers’ attempt to disrupt the religious and cultural fabric of Jerusalem’s Old City amid the Gaza conflict is another front opening up. The settlers not only escalate tensions with the Palestinians in Jerusalem but also strain relations between Israel and the entire Christian community, particularly the Armenian community. The Israeli government must halt the establishment of a settlement in one of the most sensitive and tense areas in the region, especially during this volatile situation.”
In the past week, starting from Wednesday, November 15th, representatives of those initiating the plan, accompanied by heavy machinery, in order to begin development and infrastructure work in the parking lot. According to the representatives, they possess the necessary approvals to commence the infrastructure work for the hotel construction. Since then, community members, including the Patriarch himself, have been regularly visiting the parking lot, actively obstructing the attempt to start the construction work.
It appears that the timing of the attempt to begin the construction work is not coincidental, and the initiators are taking advantage of the public’s attention on the conflict in Gaza in order to establish a new settlement in the heart of the Armenian Quarter. The establishment of new settlements during military operations is not a new strategy, and it is a well-known practice among settlers throughout the West Bank and particularly in East Jerusalem.
The Patriarchy and the Armenian community are united in their opposition to the construction of a complex that contradicts the character and needs of the community. They have turned to the courts to halt the ongoing work. Beyond impacting the diverse religious and cultural character of the Old City of Jerusalem, the establishment of a settlement in the Armenian Quarter aligns with broader settler efforts in Jaffa’s Gate and the Christian and Muslim quarters, aiming to push out other religious communities from the Old City and transform it into a predominantly or exclusively Jewish city.
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