Armenian Orthodox/Apostolic Christians
April 10th, 2010 by SM

Armenians in Israel are Armenians with Israeli citizenship. There are around one thousand Israeli-Armenians with Israeli citizenship, residing mainly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv Jaffa and Haifa. When taking into account the total number of Armenians in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the Armenian community in Israel and the West Bank added, the number of Armenian may total around four thousand.

The Armenian community has been resident in the Holy Land for two millennia. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and the establishment of the State of Israel, a number of Armenians residing in what had been the British Mandate of Palestine took up Israeli citizenship, whereas other Armenian residents of Old City of Jerusalem and the territory captured by Jordan took on the Jordanian nationality.Thus, after 1948, two groups of Armenians emerged:

  • Armenians with Israeli citizenship living within the borders of the newly established state of Israel
  • Armenians with Jordanian nationality, in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter, East Jerusalem, and the Armenians residing in the West Bank.

The Armenian Orthodox Church is also called The Armenian Apostolic Church. This name is based upon the belief that Armenia was christianized by the two apostles, Bartholomew and Thaddeus and has one of the oldest traditions. There have been close contacts with the Syrian church from which it has received scriptures, liturgy and much of its theology.

Armenian Orthodox Cathedral (St. James) in Jerusalem

Armenian Orthodox Cathedral (St. James) in Jerusalem

A great percentage of Armenians in Israel are Armenian Orthodox, with a very small number of Armenian Catholics and Armenian Evangelicals. The Armenian Orthodox remain under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the residing Patriarch under the auspices of Armenian Apostolic Church (See of Holy Echmiadzin), whereas the Armenian Catholics are under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Catholic Church and Patriarchal Vicar (residing at Via Dolorosa 41 – Fourth Station).

The churches belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church are:

  • St. Elias Church in Haifa and Saint Nicholas Church in Jaffa.
  • Religious Israeli-Armenians also pray on special occasions in St. James Cathedral (Sourp Hagopyants) at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (under joint jurisdiction of Armenian Church with other Christian churches)
  • The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (again under joint jurisdiction of the Armenian Church and other Christian churches).
  • The Armenian Church also has the St. Gregory Monastery in Ramleh.

Armenians, whether in Israel, Jerusalem or the West Bank, celebrate the Birth of Christ (Christmas) and the Epiphany on a unique day, which is January 18. It is noteworthy that fellow Armenian Orthodox communities in Republic of Armenia and worldwide celebrate Christmas and Epiphany on January 6th. This difference between the celebration on January 6, worldwide and January 18 in Israel is because the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem still abides by the ancient Julian calendar, whereas the Armenian Apostolic Church has adopted the newer Gregorian calendar.

The Armenian Catholics in Israel celebrate their Christmas on December 25, in line with all other Catholics of the Roman Catholic Church

Armenian Churches in Israel

  • St. James (Sourp Hagopyants) Cathedral – The Jerusalem Patriarchate (Armenian Quarter, Jerusalem)
  • Armenian Patriachate of Jerusalem – Heart of the Armenian Quarter
  • Armenian Catholic Church and Patriarchal Vicar (Via Dolorosa 41 (Fourth Station), Jerusalem)
  • Holy Sepulchre -Armenian/Greek/Roman (Jerusalem)
  • Church of the Nativity -Armenian/Greek/Roman (Bethlehem)
    St. Elias Church (Haifa)
  • St. Nicolas Armenian Apostolic Church (Jaffa)
  • St. Gregory Monastery (Ramleh)

There are about 1 million Armenian members of the church in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Israel/Palestinian Teritories, Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, with an additional 500,000 living in Western countries like the USA. In Lebanon the Armenian Orthodox live in central parts of the country, in Iraq they mainly live in Baghdad. In Israel most live in Jerusalem. In Israel/Palestine, the few Armenian Orthodox live in Bethlehem and Ramallah.

Today, the highest position is the Katholikos, a sort of archbishop. There are 2 Katholikos, the supreme one in Echmiadzin, Armenia, and the Katholikos of the Middle East, located in Antelias, Lebanon. Then there are 2 patriarchs, one in Istanbul, Turkey, and one in Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine. While the Katholikos of Echmiadzin is officially the head of the church, many believers support the Katholikos in Antelias.

Around 300
: Christianity becomes state religion of Armenia, when the king is converted by Gregory the Illuminator. He establishes his headquarters in Echmiadzin (in modern Armenia).
4th century: Breaks from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and keeps close ties with the Syrian church. The Armenian church even uses the Syriac alphabet.
5th century: An Armenian alphabet is invented, and many scriptures are translated into Armenian.
Around 500: The Armenian Church rejects the conclusion of the Council of Chalcedon (in 451) which had defined Jesus as having 2 natures, divine and human, coexisting in one person.
485: The headquarters are moved to Dvin.
506: The Armenian Church adopts the Monophysite doctrine, that Jesus has only one, divine, nature.
7th century: The Georgian branch breaks away from the Armenian Church, and joins the Greek Orthodox Church. The Armenian continues its cooperation with the Coptic Church and Syrian Jacobite churches.
1293: The headquarters are moved to Sis (now Kozan, Turkey).
14th century: The patriarchate of Jerusalem is founded by local Christians.
1441: The headquarters of the church moves to Echmiadzin. Here a new institution was established, the “Katholikos of all Armenians”.
1461: An Armenian patriarchate of Constantinople (now Istanbul) is created by sultan Mehmed 2, in order to have a leader of Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, so that it would be easier to conduct politics towards his Armenian subjects.
1742: A part of the Armenian church breaks off to form the Armenian Catholic Church.
1915-18: The Armenians suffer heavy persecution from the Ottoman regime, when about 1 million are killed. See Armenian Genocide.
1930: The Katholikos of Sis moves to Antelias in Lebanon, as a way of seeking refuge from possible future oppression from Muslim rulers.

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One Response  
  • Rita Hosepian writes:
    September 5th, 20106:28 pmat

    you forgot 1948- Zionists shell the Armenian quarter

    by the way, it is armenians of palestine, we are not jewish nor do we bow down to a jewish state. we are armenian christians of palestine

    Editors Note: There never was a Palestine nation or region prior to the British Mandate. Armenian christians arrived in the Holy Land under the control of Roman Byzantine Empire. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire the Holy Land was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Jesus never lived in a region called Palestine…and he was a Zionist and a Jews which means he was dedicated to the Holy Land of the G-d of Israel – Zionism. He never was identified as a member of a Christian denomination. The Holy Land would have no notariety without the Hebrew Torah and the Jewish Israelite nation of peoples that existed in the Holy land for 5771 years. Read Bible Discovered category “Abstracts” for the meaning of Palestine and further read about the Armenian Genocide – category “Dark Side of Humanity”

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