Saturday, 10 October 2015
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Enrollment for this year's Western Armenian evening courses is this Sunday
Enrolment for this year’s Western Armenian evening classes will take place on Sunday 11 October from 3pm to 6pm. All students who have expressed an interest in this year’s classes are invited to attend to meet the teacher, collect course materials, and formally enroll. For more information on the evening classes on offer, please click here.
VenueEnrolment will take place at Hye Doon (Armenian House) in south London. This is the venue where classes will be held.
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Posted by Seta at 11:50
Tuesday, 6 October 2015
THE ISRAELI PM SAYS NO TO SYRIAN REFUGEES. A SPITEFUL AND MYOPIC POLICY.
‘Israel is a very small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth’, intoned hypocritically PM Bibi Netanyahu. It was a ruthless ‘Nein!’ to sheltering any Syrian refugees. Compassion for the suffering neighbours? Women, children and old people? The hard-hearted fellow does not care. They are Arab aliens. To hell with them!
‘Love the sojourner…for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’, says the Lord in Deuteronomy. (10:19). Reinforced by ‘You shall not oppress a stranger or wrong him, because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt’, Israel’s God commands in Exodus (23:21). ‘I am wronging no one! I am looking after my own people’, I can hear Bibi’s squawks of protest. But some omissions as just as morally bad as some actions. If you saw a child drowning near you and you could save him but did nothing, you would be rightly execrated by all. It is shocking, disgusting that descendants of Jews who have been persecuted and massacred should refuse to help others human beings - literally neighbours - in the same predicament.
Compassion, actively exercised, is one of the noblest human characteristics. One that differentiates men from brute beasts. But I admit that compassion should not prevent a statesman from thinking, reasoning about the likely consequences of his political steps. Netanyahu’s reasons are faulty, however.
Geography is invoked to justify callousness. Israel is small. That is true. 8015 square miles. But so is tiny Lebanon. Even smaller. Only 4015 sq miles. Half Israel’s size. And it lacks the massive financial and military aid America gives to Israel. Yet Lebanon has given asylum to more than a million fleeing Syrians! Hence the geographic argument is arrant nonsense.
What about demography? I take it Israel’s PM is worried about the refugees ‘breeding like rabbits’ and offsetting the ethnic balance of the Jewish state. Again, rubbish. The Syrian civil war will not go on for ever. When, God willing, it is over, the refugees will gladly opt to go back to their own country. Why should they desire to stay in a foreign, not-so-amicable land? Besides, you can bet your boots Bibi would make damn sure they have little inducements to remain.
‘But their children meanwhile born in Israel will be entitled to citizenship’, another excuse goes. Fiddlesticks! No doubt Bibi and his ilk can pass laws to bar that. Where there is a will there is a way. Clearly, Netanyahu’s will is to shut the door, regardless of circumstances.
To be fair, the chief of Israel’s opposition, Herzog, has attacked the PM’s insensitivity. And so has the left-leaning Meretz party. Not all Israelis should be tarred over with Bibi’s rough brush. And there are many noble Jews who wish to abide by the higher ethical standards of the Jewish religion. Thanks God for that!
Israeli response to human suffering contrasts starkly with that of Germany. The former cradle of the III Reich, the nation historically associated with racial exclusivity and the attempt to create the Superman, has outdone all other peoples in welcoming lowly immigrants from the Middle East. Angela Merkel has offered to take in 800.000 this year and probably half a million a year thereafter. An unwise move, some opine (where are the infrastructures? What about, to echo David Cameron, social cohesion?), but still a hugely impressive policy. Never mind obvious differences in culture and religion, Germany has welcomed the refugees. Israel has not.
Although Bibi may not state it bluntly, most Syrians are Muslims. That must make them especially undesirable to the Jewish state. Odd, if you think about it. When the Inquisition threw out Jews from Catholic Spain centuries back, the nations in which they were given asylum and hospitality were Muslim ones. The Ottoman Empire was especially welcoming. Jews on the whole did very well under the Sultan’s rule. Indeed, financially well. The man who financed the Turkish conquest of Cyprus in 1571 was Don Jose’ Nasi, a wealthy Marrano, a Sephardi Jew of Portuguese origins. Similarly, many Jews fleeing intolerant Catholic Europe, prospered in Arab countries. Ironic that the Jewish state today should show itself so unwilling to repay the debt…
How many refugees should Israel take? I say as many as a million. Wot! Is the priest nuts? But the Zionist nation already puts up with 1.700 million Arabs within its borders, quite apart from those in the occupied West Bank. And Gaza is well 1.816 million people. One million refugees would not be impossible to accommodate – temporarily. And the Yanks might help.
Suicidal for the Jewish state? Self-destruction? On the contrary, it would be a fabulously positive message sent out to the whole Middle East, to Europe, to all the world. Generosity, hospitality, mercy and love. It would tremendously enhance Israel’s reputation among the Gentiles. That is what God sent the Prophet Isaiah to proclaim:
‘…I have called you in righteousness, I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeons, from the prison those who sit in darkness’.
I pray that it may be so, despite spiteful Bibi.
Revd Frank Julian Gelli
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Posted by Seta at 22:53
Posted by Seta at 22:52
PUSHKIN CLUB: AN EVENING OF POETRY TO MARK THE
• Tuesday, November 3, 2015
• 7:30pm 9:00pm
THE MONK KEEPING HIS ARMENIAN HERITAGE ALIVE IN VENICE
TERESA LEVONIAN COLE
In the middle of the Venetian lagoon, near the Lido, lies a remarkable
island that escapes the radar of checklist tourists. It is an oasis of
calm and spacious gardens, fragrant with pine, roses and the residual
trail of incense. In the silence, you hear birdsong, the thrice daily
tolling of bells and the plangent echo of Armenian chants. For an hour
or so each day, you will also hear a guide showing a small group the
treasures and achievements of this place, which have been admired by
luminaries including Pope Pius VII, Lord Byron, George Sand and Richard
Wagner. If you are lucky, that guide might be Father Hamazasp
Kechichian, one of just 17 souls living on the island in buildings
dating from the 18th century.
The island, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, has been home to a community of
Mekhitarist monks — Armenian Catholics who follow the Armenian rite
and liturgy — since a monastery was founded on the former leper colony
by the eponymous Abbot Mekhitar in 1717. For Kechichian, the
tranquillity is a far cry from the troubles that besiege his home town
of Kessab, near the Turkish border in Syria.
“The attack from rebel forces on 21 March 2014 — [Syrian] Mother’s
Day, as it happens — was completely unexpected,” he says. “Rebels
launched missiles from Turkey, then crossed the
border . . . Churches and icons were destroyed; houses burnt. My
grandfather’s tomb was [desecrated]. Seven-hundred families fled with
nothing. My family took refuge in Latakia, then Anjar [Lebanon] and
returned after the Syrian army retook Kessab in mid-June. They found
nothing left. Everyone must start again from zero. And there is still a
Kechichian was born into the predominantly Armenian community of Kessab
in 1980. “It is unique among towns of the diaspora,” he says.
“Armenians have lived there for over 500 years, the last remnants of
the ancient Kingdom of Cilicia. Our ancient traditions are still
practised — oral traditions. We even have our own dialect.” He
recalls a blissful childhood. “My cousins used to come every summer
from Aleppo, and we would stay in my grandmother’s house to pick
apples. Kessab is famous for its apples. Then in autumn, we would make
grape syrup. It was a beautiful place — and had many tourists until
recently. The people are simple and very hospitable. There is beautiful
nature, mountains, sea, fresh air . . . It is a lost paradise.”
At the age of 15, Kechichian left his home town. “I decided I wanted
to become a priest,” he says, “so I spent two years in an Armenian
Catholic seminary in Lebanon. My mother is Armenian Apostolic
[Orthodox], my brother works in an Armenian Protestant school. I chose
the Mekhitarist order because Mekhitar worked for all Armenians,
In 1997 Kechichian arrived at the mother seat of the Mekhitarists, San
Lazzaro, where his uncle was abbot. Three years later, philosophical
and theological studies took him to Rome, then back to Lebanon, before
40,000 annual visitors and the kitchens, where he consults with the
cook on daily menus, occasionally donning an apron himself. “It’s
Vienna. Here, we make rose-petal jam, from the lilac-coloured roses
Kechichian has special dispensation from the abbot to make daily trips
to the Lido to collect bread and post, as well as weekly visits to the
market for vegetables and monthly trips to Venice “for a big shop”.
Meals are taken in silence in a wood-panelled refectory, where the
abbot sits beneath a painting of the Last Supper while a novice reads
Typically, the monks rise at 6am. “We have prayers three times a day,
including Mass,” says Kechichian.
The monks of San Lazzaro have long been famed for their scholarship,
and translations. The monastery’s museums and libraries represent the
largest repository of Armenian culture in the diaspora. They also
contain 30,000 European printed books, dating from 1400 to 1800, and
4,500 manuscripts dating from 862AD, including early translations of
ancient works whose originals have been lost.
From 1789 until 1996, the monastery operated its own printing press
and, at its height, the polyglot monks published works in 36 languages.
designated San Lazzaro an academic institution, thereby sparing it from
the destruction suffered by other monasteries.
“My most important education — my spiritual and cultural values —
come from Kessab and San Lazzaro,” says Kechichian, who stays in
regular contact with his family in Syria via Skype and WhatsApp. “I am
suffering for all Armenians and for all the people of Syria. It is a
beautiful country, with so much culture, so much history. All
destroyed. The Latin bishop of Aleppo was asking ‘How can the west
Five hours have passed in conversation. “I’m sorry,” says
Kechichian, “I must go. Visitors are arriving for a tour, and I will
give a talk about culture and history.” Perhaps this will take place
in the book-lined room where Byron spent six months in 1816, studying
the Armenian language under the tutelage of the monks. “A
seventh-century BC Egyptian mummy lives there now,” says Kechichian.
“The gift of an Egyptian prime minister. It is very popular with
KECHICHIAN’S VERDICT . . .
● Venice is an important cultural crossroads
● Many Armenians visit the monastery and it is rewarding to tell them
about their culture and history
● San Lazzaro is one of the main spiritual centres for Armenians
around the world
● It can be very cold and damp in winter, stifling in summer
● Infrequent boat service to San Lazzaro
● Only a tiny Armenian community (20 families) in Venice
● Sitting on Lord Byron’s Hill in the monastery gardens opposite the
Lido in the summer — a good place to meditate
● Watching the sunset over Venice from the roof of the monastery’s
boat garage — we call it the Octagon
● Bernardo Strozzi’s painting of the Annunciation in the church
_Teresa Levonian Cole was a guest of the St Regis Venice San Clemente
Palace hotel and Kirker Holidays_
ARMENIA FOILS AZERI ATTEMPT TO VIOLATE STATE BORDER
02 Oct 2015
One of the divisions of the Azerbaijani armed forces stationed in
Nakhijevan attempted to violate the state border with Armenia at about
22:30, October 1, the Armenian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The incident took place at the south-western sector of the
Armenian-Azerbaijani border, in the direction of Yeraskh.
The Armenian armed forces were quick to detect the attack in the area
between the military positions of the two countries and prevented
the infringement attempt. The rival retreated as a result of exchange
The Ministry of Defense warns that any attempt to escalate the
situation at the shared border in the direction of Nakhijevan will
be strictly punished.
Farming Dangerous For Life In Armenian Border Village
The residents of Paravakar have stopped taking cover in their
basements and other makeshift bomb shelters for the last few days, but
life is still far from back to normal in this village on Armenia's
border with Azerbaijan.
For many of them, farming remains a life-threatening activity due to
continuing gunfire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions overlooking
their vineyards. Consequently, they are unable to harvest what has
long been the main source of income in their wine-growing community.
Paravakar is one of two dozen villages in Armenia's northern Tavush
province located dangerously close to the heavily militarized
Azerbaijani border. Skirmishes between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops
stationed in the area have remained a regular occurrence even after a
Russian-mediated truce halted the war in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1994.
The Tavush villages came under unusually heavy Azerbaijani fire on
September 24, which left three Armenian civilians, all of them women,
dead. One of the victims, the 83-year-old Paytsar Aghajanian, was
killed by a mortar shell that landed in Paravakar. At least eight
Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers were killed near Karabakh in the
Many houses in Paravakar carry traces of the long-running ceasefire
violations and are in need of repairs. "See, there is a big bullet in
there," one local resident told RFE/RL's Armenian service
(Azatutyun.am), pointing to a deep hole on the front wall of his
Tensions on the frontlines appear to have eased in the last few days,
with Paravakar residents no longer spending nights in their basements
and rooms turned into bomb shelters. But they are continuing to
grapple with another security problem that has no solution in sight.
A large part of the village's vineyards covering 20 hectares of
agricultural land is particularly close to the Azerbaijani army
positions, making it extremely dangerous for their owners to pick
their grapes during the harvesting period which traditionally starts
"We can't collect our harvest," complained one woman, whose family
owns one of those vineyards. "No trucks and tractors dare to approach
my plot of land. I don't know what to do."
"We can't graze cattle either," said another woman. "Azerbaijani army
posts are right behind that mountain. We have only one cow and we have
to sell it."
Other Paravakar farmers are lucky to own land and pastures in other,
safer parts of the border area. They believe that the Armenian
government should help their more disadvantaged neighbors.
"Let the authorities help all those people whose vineyards are on the
line of fire," one young man said as he and his family members worked
at their vineyard. "They should pay some compensation. The people are
suffering a lot."
"People living here are heroes," said another man. "If the state helps
us a little there will be no out-migration from here."
"There must be a difference in the government's treatment of residents
of Yerevan and border villages. Life is much tougher here," he added.
The Armenian government faced similar calls from opposition groups
before introducing late last year tax breaks for residents of 31
border communities. The government also began subsidizing electricity,
natural gas and irrigation water supplied to them. The aid package was
dismissed as insufficient by opposition lawmakers.
THOMAS DE WAAL: AZERBAIJAN'S MILITARY POTENTIAL WILL
The military potential of Azerbaijan is not such that it would enable
it to start a war.
Thomas de Waal, a senior associate at the Washington-based Carnegie
Endowment, and who specializes primarily in the South Caucasus region,
stated the aforementioned at a discussion on Friday.
De Waal stressed that this, first and foremost, is another big risk
for the Azerbaijani regime.
He noted that Azerbaijan is using heavy military equipment, and this
is very bad and it has a great risk of resumption of war.
The analyst added that the situation in Azerbaijan is becoming more
unpredictable due to the falling oil prices, and therefore Azerbaijan's
unlimited wealth is being consumed.
As per Thomas de Waal, there is a peril that both Armenia and
Azerbaijan are interested in "playing" the Karabakh playing card and
this is also an unpredictable moment.
On September 25, the Azerbaijani armed forces shelled one of the
northeastern protection areas of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR)
Defense Army unit. The fire was opened from Turkish-made reactive
rocket propelled howitzers (TR-107). Consequently, four NKR Defense
Army soldiers died from shrapnel wounds, and there are sixteen wounded
STRONG STRIKES TO AZERBAIJANI POSITIONS: ARMENIA
Haikazn Ghahriyan, Editor-in-Chief
In September the Armenian armed forces answered the Azerbaijani
aggression with several tough strikes causing significant losses
to Azerbaijan. The leadership of the Armenian army announced about
its new tactics: it will no longer wait for Azerbaijan's actions
to silence it. The Armenian armed forces will regularly hit the
Azerbaijani positions and act more proactively.
The Armenian officials have announced at different instances that
Azerbaijan is behaving like a terrorist organization. Hence, Azerbaijan
should be treated like a terrorist organization.
Recently the representatives of Armenia have brought up the issue of
the attitude of the international community in different international
organizations, including the PACE. Namely, the international community
is putting an equal mark between the actions of the conflict sides.
>From Serzh Sargsyan to the Armenian representatives to the PACE,
everyone has announced that in this situation nothing is left but to
force Azerbaijan to choose peace and the international community is
accountable for its stance. This means that Armenia is implementing
"artillery preparedness" to use its new tactics.
What does "international community puts an equal mark" mean? It means
that at this stage the conflict sides have a carte blanche to resolve
their problems. Apparently, the carte blanche is with Armenia.
Evidence to this is that the notion "Karabakh issue" is omitted
from the international terminology. Instead, the notion "area of the
Karabakh conflict" is used. This indicates a pause in the "negotiation
In fact, this is a common international practice, a way of maturing
of a new situation.
The defense ministry officials have announced that the purpose
of the new tactics in the conflict area is to force Azerbaijan to
accept a new ceasefire agreement. In fact, the 1994 truce was not a
binding document and was aimed at saving Azerbaijan from a historic
disaster rather. Then Russia saved Azerbaijan, and time showed that
this agreement does not regulate the main issues. From this point of
view, the stance of the leadership of the Armenian army is crisp and
clear - achieve an agreement which will address the issue of security
Hence the new tactics of Armenia is delineated. The Armenian armed
forces can address this issue. However, pending is the issue of
the political basis for the actions of the armed forces, namely how
adequate and consistent to the new tactics and how independent the
actions of the political leadership of Armenia will be to rule out the
entry of "peacekeepers" of the third countries to the conflict area.
The 1994 truce which is not a binding document was the shortcoming
of the political leadership then. Another such shortcoming may this
time do great harm to Armenia.
NAKHIJEVAN EARTHQUAKE ALSO FELT IN ARMENIA
At 3:24 am local time today, on October 2 the Seismic Protection
Service of Armenian Ministry of Territorial Administration and
Emergency Situations recorded a 5.3 magnitude earthquake on the border
of Nakhijevan and Armenia's Syunik province, 20 km from the city of
Kajaran, according to the press service of the ministry.
The earthquake measured 3 at its epicenter. Its coordinates were
39.26 degree N, 45.97 degree E. Tremors were also felt in the city
Posted by Seta at 22:46