Visit of Dr. Leonardo Cohen and students of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Visit to the Armenian Patriarchate


My name is Leonardo Cohen. I am a lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and my research deals with issues related to Ethiopian Christianity, the history of the Society of Jesus, and the history of Eastern Christianity in general.

               On May 29, a group of 20 university students accompanied me to visit the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The visit was organized within the framework of the annual seminar I conducted within the program of African Studies and the Department of Middle East Studies. The name of the course is “Christians and Christianity in the Middle East and Africa,” and in it I mainly address different topics related to the history of the so-called Eastern, non-Chalcedonian Churches such as the Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian. It is a privilege to teach such a course in an Israeli university, where traveling only a few kilometers, we can find and know important sacred places, and sites that are extremely significant for the history of all these old Christian denominations and peoples. We were greeted in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem by Dina Blokland, who on behalf of the Patriarch opened the doors and accompanied us to know the church, as well as the Armenian quarter and some of its most important facilities such as the library. The experience was for all of us extremely interesting and also an emotional one. All of the students have grown up in Israel and most of them outside of Jerusalem. Their personal knowledge with different expressions of Eastern Christianity had been, till the last year, very limited. Therefore, we enjoyed very much, not only the explanations we received, but also the presence in the church during the prayer. All these experiences enriched very much the students, beyond the merely historical or intellectual knowledge.

The visit generated interest on the part of the students, to the point that three of them chose to write their final work on different aspects of the history of Christianity and Armenian culture. Certainly, the visit to the Armenian Patriarchate gave us the opportunity to learn more about the recent history and current conditions of the Armenian community in Jerusalem. Moreover, some students developed the interest of researching and writing on other periods of the history of the Armenian community as its historical nexus with Jerusalem, and the conditions of the Armenian community under the dominion of the Ottoman Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries. On behalf of my students, I would like to thank the Patriarch for his goodwill and hospitality, as well as the kindness and knowledge of Dina Blokland for having received us warmly and allowing us to know more closely the millennial history of the Armenian community of Jerusalem. 

Dr. Leonardo Cohen
Department of Middle East Studies
Ben Gurion University of the Negev.