Professor Michael E. Stone, head of the Hebrew University Armenian Studies Program, chaired a somber event at The Hebrew University to mark 89 years since the genocide of the Armenian people in Turkey. The event, held 28 April (four days after the official Armenian Genocide Memorial Day) featured His Beatitude Torkom II, the leading Armenian cleric in Jerusalem, His Excellency Mr. Tsolag Momjian, the honorary Armenian consul in Jerusalem, Professor Gabriel Motzkin, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and Dr. Sergio La Porta, lecturer in Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University. Dr. La Porta presided over the memorial’s symposium.
An intriguing lecture by Hebrew University Professor Dalia Ofer addressed the notion that the Armenian genocide played a great role in the mind of Jewish community in the “yishuv,” in pre-state Israel. During World War I, when Palestine was a backwater province of the Moslem dominated Ottoman Empire, the Jews of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Safed, and the like were well aware of the mass murder of the Armenians, and they feared they would be slaughtered next.
Professor Robert Hewen, visiting Lady Davis Professor of Armenian Studies, offered the crowd a note of optimism, belief and trust. Hewen’s family is of Turkish-Armenian descent, and was hidden by a righteous Turkish family for the duration of the war, lending to their survival.
“The altruism of a few righteous people meant everything,” he said, wide grin on his face.
Other engaging aspects of the evening were the performance by Fr. Kousan Aljanian, of two songs from West Armenian popular tradition, and powerful biblical readings in Hebrew and Armenian.
Asked why he organizes such an event each year to mark the mass murder of 1.6 Armenian people (out of a total population of less than five million in the world at the time), Prof. Stone remarked, “Because no one has a license to deny the genocide of the Armenians.” Stone noted the unofficial policy of the State of Israel to downplay the Armenian Genocide.
Professor Stone has a passion to bring the genocide of the Armenian people to the attention of the people of Israel, a passion that he compares to Jewish Studies professors one generation ago. These professors struggled on campuses in non-Jewish nations to bring the knowledge of the mass murder of Jews to the attention of the public, and certainly to the attention of academia as a legitimate subject of historical discourse. Professor Stone sadly noted that virtually no country has recognized the Armenian genocide as a tragedy that should be learned about and understood.
Professor Stone and the Hebrew University Armenian Studies Program make great efforts year round to develop ties with the renewed independent nation state of Armenia. Professor Stone leads delegations to Armenia, creating a special bond between the people of Israel and Armenia.
About the H.U. Armenian Studies Program
The Hebrew University Armenian Studies Program was founded in 1967. In recent years, under the leadership of Professor Michael Stone, it has grown into a thriving program, attracting many students from Israel and abroad. The program currently offers degrees at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels.
To encourage greater attendance, the program provides a number of fellowships: The Sam and May Rudin Foundation Fellowships allow Armenian priests to study at HU; four priests are currently learning under this fellowship. The Krikor Momjian Fellowships are granted to graduates of St. Tarkmanchats High School; the first recipient will begin studying at HU this year.
The Armenian Studies Program cooperates with community and academic establishments in both Jerusalem and Armenia. The program has close ties with the Armenian Patriarchate, Yerevan State University and the Institute of Archeology of the Armenian Academy.