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Edik Baghdasaryan

Nightclub on Church Property Sparks Controversy

Hetq received a letter from Gideon Moalem, resident of Jerusalem, in which he voices his displeasure with a gay nightclub located in a building owned by the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem.

“The issue of our turning to you is concerning the Armenian Church which has centralized in its buildings the main nightclub life of Jerusalem in the center of the city. These nightclubs along with the tragic implications of their accompanying activities of violence, prostitution, drugs, drunkenness, etc, are creating a long-term negative impact on God ' s Holy City.

“How is it that a church that is so proud of its long-standing Christian heritage, by their actions, desecrate the name of God in public ? How can a church that prides itself on the preservation of holy sites throughout the land of Israel allow impurity and perversion to be planted and permeated in the city of Jerusalem ?” asks Gider Maolem in a letter to Hetq.

Seeking an explanation, Hetq wrote to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Father Vahram Melikyan, director of the Department of Information of the Mother See, replied, “We received a message from Father Bagrat, the manager of Armenian Patriarchate property in Jerusalem.

“According to the message we received, the building mentioned in the letter is indeed owned by the Armenian Patriarchate and was rented to a restaurant, and not to a gay club. The charges that the letter writer addresses to us are not justified. According to Father Bagrat, the Armenian Patriarchate cannot in any fashion stop whatever is going on in the restaurant, which is located in the center of the city, in the entertainment zone. But, that inability in no way should suggest that Armenian Church promotes and approves the activities of nightclubs and similar institutions. We have also been informed that the issue can only be resolved by the city authorities and police,” concludes the message we received from the Department of Information.

The letter also noted that Etchmiadzin is not involved in the rental of property by the Jerusalem Patriarchate.

Later, Father Vahram Melikyan suggested that we ask the Armenian Patriarchate in jerusalem for more detailed answers. In reply to the e-mail we sent to the Patriarchate, we received a message which discussed the celebration of Easter by the Armenian and Greek Orthadox Churches.

What we hoping for, however, were the answers to these questions:

•  With which restaurant was the contract signed? Did the contract specify the activites for which the the territory could be used. If so, what were the activities?

•  If some of the contract conditions were violated, what rights did the Patriarchate have? For how long was the contract signed?

•  Does the the Armenian Patriarchate rent any other property to such clubs, or only the building on Shushan Street?

•  Why wasn't there a stipulation in the contract which would forbid the renter from opening brothels or gay clubs?

Jerusalem resident Gideon Moalem insists that the policy of the Armenian Church is to “support and make it possible for nightclubs and their side effects to exist in the buildings it owns in the center of Jerusalem."

Finally, the property manager, Father Bagrat wrote us a reply, but denying us permission to publish it. We wrote back asking for a response we could publish.

“The Patriarchate is clearly not obliged to reply to your questions or provide any explanations. The Patriarchate does not govern itself by one person's decisions and does not conduct its activities in wrongful or unjust manner. I do not understand why you are so interested in investigating questions from one non-Armenian. I have sent you a complaint regarding the question of Light, and, we have also sent you, and all Armenians, a letter asking for help regarding a very important religious matter. But to this day we haven't received any reply,” wrote Father Bagrat.

It is within the power of the Jerusalem's Patriarchate to declare the rental contract invalid, since according to the contract the Patriarchy has rented the building to a restaurant, not a nightclub. The Patriarchate may not want to do that, however, since it profits from the nightclub.