Coincidentally, this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Israelis observe the extermination of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis, began on the eve of April 24, the day Armenians around the world commemorate their own genocide.
The Turks massacred about 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 in Turkey, forcing thousands of Armenians who survived to flee to neighboring nations. Several hundred eventually settled in Israel. The Armenian Diaspora is actually more scattered than the Jewish Diaspora, though not as numerous.
In Jerusalem, as is done every year, there was a mass at the Armenian church St. James followed by a march to St. Saviour Armenian Cemetery on Mount Zion (see photo) where the Armenian community pays tribute to relatives lost in the genocide. Some Armenians protested in front of the Turkish Consulate as well.
Several Armenian families here have relatives that were either killed or escaped the genocide, somehow ending up in Israel. Israel, and in particular Mount Zion in Jerusalem, has been home to Armenians since the first century and became a refuge yet again in the early 1900s.
To this day, Turkey denies the genocide and several nations, including Israel and the United States, do not officially recognize the massacre as genocide in order to maintain relations with Turkey. However, in a bold acknowledgement, Yonah Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, called it “genocide.” A number of other countries have recognized the genocide including France, Canada and Switzerland.
“The nearest successful example [of collective denial] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915 to 1917 genocide against the Armenians in which 1.5 million people lost their lives,” said Stanley Cohen, professor of criminology at Hebrew University. “This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and cover-ups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars.”
Armenia was the first nation to declare Christianity its national religion. The nation also claims Mount Ararat, the famed resting spot of Noah’s Ark, which was once a part of Armenia but is now in Turk territory. Ararat can be seen from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital.
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