Start Banner StickyAppeal From Christian Churches: Land Deal Threatens Armenian Presence in JerusalemThe heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem issued a rare joint appeal at the weekend, warning that a contested land deal could erase the centuries-old presence of the Armenian community within the Old City.The ethnic Armenian community has its own district within the ancient city of Jerusalem under borders drawn by Ottoman rulers – the smallest of the four quarters, which also include highly distinct Muslim, Jewish and Christian neighborhoods.However, Armenians say they risk being uprooted by a deal to lease about 25% of their area to developers who want to build a luxury hotel on the site.Despite the legal challenge, bulldozers arrived last week and started tearing up a carpark, which covers some of the contested land. When protesters blocked the work, armed Israeli Jewish settlers turned up in a failed effort to disperse the demonstration.”The provocations that are being used by the alleged developers to deploy incendiary tactics threaten to erase the Armenian presence in the area, weakening and endangering the Christian presence in the Holy Land,” the Christian leaders wrote, including the heads of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.The Armenian community says the investor behind the land lease deal is an Australian-Israeli businessman Danny Rubinstein, who owns a company registered in the United Arab Emirates – Xana Capital Group. A company sign was posted in the parking lot shortly after the surveyors turned up.Armenian locals say the land lease project would consume not just their carpark, the largest open space in the Old City, but also their community hall, the patriarch’s garden, the seminary and five family houses.”The Armenians have been here since the 4th Century, but we now risk being uprooted,” said Hagop Djernazian, 23, a student, who is part of a group guarding the carpark night and day, with barbed wire strung out to try to keep out developers and settlers. “We are having to fight for our existence,” he said.Israel captured east Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordanian forces in a 1967 war. Israel regards the entire city as its eternal and undivided capital. Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.