Tag Archives: identity

The Syriac Orthodox Diaspora in Jerusalem (1831-1948). Pilgrims, Refugees and Community Building in Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine

by Antoinette Ferrand

In the very early centuries of the Christian era, the Syriac orthodox Christians – also called Jacobites – settled in Jerusalem, in the so-called house of Virgin Mary in the Armenian quarter: this monastery dedicated to St Mark the Evangelist became the headquarter of the Archbishopric which had never been one of the most important centers of the Jacobite church; its original location was indeed in the Tur ‘Abdin, in the Ottoman province of Diyarbakir (East Anatolia). But during the XIXth and XXth centuries, the small community had changed significantly moving from a handful of believers with a few pilgrims arrived from time to time in the Old City, to a refugees center welcoming the survivors of the Seyfo, the genocide committed in the Tur ‘Abdin during World War I. Besides, their dependency to Armenian authorities from which they failed to release, turned gradually into their marginalisation in Arab Palestine.
Thanks to Open Jerusalem team and Father Shimon, the librarian of Saint-Mark monastery, I have studied the baptismal register of the community, from 1831 to 1948. In fact, this document is a compilation of several census produced between the Tanzîmât period and the beginning of the British Mandate on Palestine: as it is explained in the opening text of the register, a Syriac orthodox of the community named Sulayman Jalma, began to collect all the papers related to baptized children in Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 1931 and ended his work in 1932. Then, the following monks continued to record the new baptized believers until today.

Opening text of the register, written in garshuni
Opening text of the register, written in garshuni
Headings in the first page of the register
Headings in the first page of the register

The register gathers hundreds of middle format pages, in which columns and headings are printed. The garshuni language used to complete the columns, is the transcription of the Arabic in Syriac letters; between 1831 and 1948 few filled lines are written in Arabic. The reverse of that trend is observed after World War II. The information completed in the register deal with the date of the registration, these of birth and baptism, the names and places of origin of the baptized children, of their parents and godfathers/mothers and of the priest who celebrated the baptism.

Extract of the register (1932-1933)
Extract of the register (1932-1933)

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