Since I’d often wondered about the apparently deserted building situated in the triangle at the entrance to Jerusalem’s German Colony, I jumped at the chance, through a city open-house program, to visit it.
Since I’m currently researching the Colony’s Templers (as opposed to Crusader Templars who were in the area hundreds of years before), I was hoping to accumulate useful data as well. I was both disappointed and elated.
After the German Templers– turned Nazi sympathizers–were expelled from Israel during WWII, this tiny meeting house was acquired by Jerusalem’s Armenian community. Since then, it has served as one of their churches. So my adventure was Armenian rather than Templer.
After an enlightening lecture that pressed the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide (1915-1923) home, an Armenian religious service followed. The priest wore a long black gown, and a ceremonial black head-dress, a Byzantine-style mitre that tapered to an impressive point over his head. The congregation was filled with , I thought at first, yeshiva buchers. When they began to sing, however, in what must have been Armenian, I realized that these young men in black suits were actually choir members. After a long, completely unintelligible service (to anyone who did not understand their tongue), they fanned out into a semi-circle, abandoning their unison chanting for three part Armenian religious (?) melodies. When their director, an imposing character with a marvelously imposing voice sang, the lofty, dim, wooden-roofed sanctuary swelled with song, accompanied by insistent peals of church bells and the tinkling of tiny bells swinging to and fro from a perfumed silver incense-holder.