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A police spokesman said the police act on every complaint, but that few have been filed.

“I’m afraid that if things go on like this, there won’t be any Christians left in this country,” the patriarch says. “Nobody knows anything about Armenia or Armenians.

“We don’t belong to the community — they don’t [accept] us as members. We are third-class citizens.”

Most Armenians tend to be more sanguine about the many challenges they face, finding solidarity in a deep sense of community. That feeling is especially strong in Jerusalem, where the majority of Armenians reside in the Old City’s Armenian Quarter, a picturesque neighborhood occupying a sixth of the city’s territory. Its high stone walls insulate them from the outside world, even before its massive iron gates shutter at 10 p.m.

Outside of approved organized tours, most of the quarter is off limits to visitors.

While community members work and shop outside the walls, they feel most at home within the quarter, which is a monastic compound owned by the patriarchate. Here, their children attend school and play soccer while adults socialize at community functions and pray at the 12th-century Cathedral of Sts. James, dedicated to the apostles James, “the brother of the Lord,” and James, the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee. According to tradition, the cathedral marks the site of the Council of Jerusalem (circa 50 A.D.).

The narrow road leading to the Armenian Quarter is lined with shops, where Armenian artisans create and sell high-quality ceramics valued by locals, pilgrims and tourists. Working alongside her husband in their ceramics store, Sonia Sandrouni says her children have been positively affected by the patriarchate’s efforts to instill pride in the younger generation.

“We have the school, which teaches Armenian history, language and culture,” she notes. “We have Armenian clubs for children and teenagers. I don’t know what we would do without them.”

But there are some problems even the church can’t solve, Mrs. Sandroni adds.

“Some leave the country to seek better opportunities and that concerns us a lot,” she explains. “So does the fact that although we want our kids to marry other Armenians, there aren’t enough young people for this to happen.”

Hasmig Kalaydjian, the teacher attending Hebrew University, agrees.

“We went to the same school and grew up as friends. We’re like sisters and brothers, so it’s difficult to think of the boys as future husbands.”

Archbishop Aris says that although the patriarchate makes efforts to bring together young people from the various communities for social gatherings, it is not always sufficient.

A “very small” number of intermarriages between Armenians and local Arab Christians from other denominations do occur, he says, but Western Armenians almost never marry non-Christians.

“We don’t try to convert people,” he says, “but if there is an intermarriage, we ask the non-Armenian to go through the process of connecting to the Armenian Apostolic Christian faith and sign a declaration that he or she is joining the church. Our goal is to keep Armenian faith and identity.”

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