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Barett Yeretzian : My only regret is that I trusted the Patriarch


archival photo of Barett Yeretzian with the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem to his right with a full beard

By Daoud Kuttab

The former real estate director of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem who has been defrocked and has left the region for California says that he has no regret for what he has done except for trusting the Patriarch. In a long interview, Yeretzian says that when he was in power his interest was solely for his church. “. I did not work for the Palestinians. I did not work for the Jordanians. I worked for the patriarchate, period.” Yeretzian said he never asked the Palestinian government for any money and denied that any homes were included in the deal. He did say, however, that some homes might be renovated from the outside. “The houses were safe. Just it was going to be remodeling outside that part to make it more presentable.”

The Armenian official who signed as a witness to the controversial land deal in the old city of Jerusalem denied reports that the patriarchate had received nine million dollars, insisting that it was always two million in advance and that the money was delivered to the church not to any individual. Yeretzian scoffed at the weekly demonstrator arguing that they have no standing as far as what the church leadership can or can’t do with church property.

Document released by Barett showing that Patriarch knew about controversial deal

Below is the verbatim transcription of the interview with Baret Yeretzian:

Kuttab:  You had an unfortunate incident back in May, in which you were attacked by people from the Armenian community and then you were quiet for many months. Why now are you talking?

Father Yeretzian:  I was not truly quiet, but I was responding to some of the allegations. But this time they went too far, and I said, I better tell these people what the truth is once more, which I am sure they knew, but I wanted to remind them what is the truth behind all these things. I published some of the things in my report and showed them that the patriarch was and is in charge of everything that had happened. Everything with his full knowledge and with his full authority.

Kuttab: Okay. Every time you spoke, since the problems, you always complained that you were a messenger Nazi decision maker. Is that correct? Yes.

Father Yeretzian:  Yes. I was the real estate director of the Patriarchate.

Kuttab:  So, who initiated the discussion about the real estate deal? Was that the patriarch, was it the investor or was it you who started the discussion?

Father Yeretzian:  Mr. Kuttab? I always said that I did not know even the existence of the investor. He called me. Because I was a real estate director. As always, they do that. Even other investors called me, and I immediately informed the patriarch and the patriarch wanted to see him.

Kuttab:  So, he called you, how long ago, do you remember?

Father Yeretzian:  2022 or the end of 2021, something like that?

Kuttab:  What about. 2014.

Father Yeretzian:   2014 was a different Investor. The investor was from Georgia.

Kuttab:  Now this is after the municipality parking deal or before?

Father Yeretzian:  It was after, or at the same time. It was after.

Kuttab:  Because when you did the municipality deal, some people felt that this was a trick to get you started and then to come the investor. Do you see any connection between the parking lot deal and the hotel deal?

Father Yeretzian:  No, there was no connection. I can guarantee you whatsoever. Between the investor and the municipality. The contact with the municipality was for many years.

Kuttab:  Well, there no connection that you know, of?

Father Yeretzian: Of course,

Kuttab:  Maybe they had their own connection between the municipality and the investor.

Father Yeretzian:  I do not think so, but what can I say? As far as I am concerned, I did not know anything about it.

Kuttab:  Okay. Now I want to talk to you about relations with Jordan and Palestine. Yes. You always said that you advised the patriarch not to worsen relations with Jordan.

Father Yeretzian:  I always told the patriarch; that you should have a good relationship with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan because they are the protectors of the holy places. And furthermore, they are the ones who issue the Ferman (official sovereign order)

Kuttab:  And what was his response?

Father Yeretzian:  His response was always, that there was sort of a fear on his part and not trust. I told them, I told him, and with his permission, I traveled to Amman a couple of times, and I spoke to them to the royal court, and I said to them everything openly. And they told me, they promised me that they would invite the Patriarch. And they told me, we will invite you two. I said, okay. That never happened. Anything did not come.

Kuttab:  Because when the parking lot deal was made, many people were worried that this was a trick to start.

Father Yeretzian:  Mr. Kuttab: just let me say this to you, trust me, there was no connection on the issue of the parking lot because it was a garbage dump and we wanted to clean it.

Kuttab:  But if you are neutral and you see the progression, you will see that there is a connection

Father Yeretzian:  I did not see it that way.

Kuttab:  Now, the relations with the Palestinians. Somebody said that the patriarchate asked the PA for money because you had financial problems in the patriarchate, and they were not able to give you money. Who in the PA did you ask and what happened between you and the Palestinian government?

Father Yeretzian:  I never asked for any money from the Palestinian Authority.

Kuttab:  So, you did not talk to anybody in Ramallah?

Father Yeretzian:  No, not for money. Not for money.

Kuttab:  Ramzi Khoury or anybody else?

Father Yeretzian:  No, no, no, no. Not for money. Not for money.

Kuttab:  Nobody asked the PA for support when you had financial problems.

Father Yeretzian:  I did not ask for any financial help from them because first of all, it was not a place for me to ask. Who am I to ask the money from the Palestinian Authority? If someone asked, they should answer that.

Official Synod document acknowledging the land deal

Kuttab:  At one time it was said that the Synod was not aware of the lease agreement. Did they know?

Father Yeretzian:  The Synod. Yes. When it was signed, the contract, as I have said all the time, and I will say it again, the Patriarch said, there was no need for the Synod. I am telling you this. I wrote a memorandum about it, but afterward, the issue came to the Synod and the Synod approved it.

Kuttab:  So, when did the synod know?

Father Yeretzian:  They knew it afterward. And they knew many times. And the chair of the Synod Father Aghoyan, sent a communication to this effect.

Kuttab:  So, they voted on it. Did they vote

Father Yeretzian:  In the synod? Yes.

Kuttab:  And it is in the minutes of the meeting.

Father Yeretzian:  It is in the minutes. And that issue came many times afterward and nobody complained in the synod.

Kuttab:  So why are they quiet now? They are not saying anything.

Father Yeretzian:  They cannot say anything because the proof is against them.

Kuttab:  So, who do you think led the attack against you? Who is the group or person who uses you? Did the patriarch himself make you the scapegoat? Why were you made the scapegoat?

Father Yeretzian:  The patriarch? Yes, he did make me a scapegoat. And everybody knows that. And he knows that too, because he was cornered by some of the priests working secretly with the Palestinian Authority. And I know that for a fact. I have known this last year since September.

Kuttab:  Do you have a copy of the contract?

Father Yeretzian:  I do not. Personally, I do not have a contract. I have said this repeatedly. I do not have the contract. I[ wish I had it. I made a very big mistake not keeping a copy of the contract with me.

Kuttab:  Now, when you went to the head of the [Jordanian] waqf you gave the Jordanian government the contract?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes.

Kuttab:  It was missing one page?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes. Page 14 and I sent it to them.

Kuttab:  Who took it out?

Father Yeretzian:  No, no, it was not done deliberately. It was an error. The secretary sent it.

Kuttab:  Nothing on page 14 that is important.

Father Yeretzian:  I do not think so. I send it to them.

Kuttab:  Okay. There’s the discussion that the investor paid nine million US dollars.

Father Yeretzian:  No, that is not true.

Kuttab:  And there is a discussion that they gave $2 million and in the documents the Israelis produced, they say nine million, which is the correct amount?

Father Yeretzian:  It is only two million in advance. $2 million. And is it the contract? $2 million. Okay. Who has created this? $9 million. Just a fake.

Kuttab:  It is in an Israeli claim.

Father Yeretzian: I can assure you it is impossible.

Kuttab:  And it was given to in cash, check, or wire transfer. It was in the name of the church?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes, it was paid in the name of the church and the money was transferred to our accounting officer’s office.

Kuttab:  So, the money went to the church, not to individuals.

Father Yeretzian:  Yes, of course. That was part of the deal, not individual money. Part of the deal. If you do this thing, then you have to pay this much money as it was with all the investors. Even with Mr. Marcus before he was supposed to pay one million, 1 million a half, something like that. At that time

Kuttab:  When you had the problem, you mentioned that the patriarch had diamonds. What was the diamond story? I do not understand that.

Father Yeretzian:  The day of defrocking me, it was on Saturday. He called me for a coffee. I went there, I said this, and I am very ashamed of telling you, but I said it and I wrote about it, that we had coffee. He said we are brothers, things like this. And he showed me this jewelry worth $35,000. He said, can you find me people to buy this? And I told him, first of all, I do not know if this is a real one, things like this. You better talk to a jeweler and decide it. Okay, then go on. But personally, I will not do that because I do not know anybody who will buy that kind of piece of jewelry.

Kuttab:  There is a lot of protest almost every Friday. What do you think of the protest of the community?

Father Yeretzian:  I will tell you something, Mr. Kuttab. I do not know why they are protesting, to be honest. I know why they are doing this, but I do not know if they have the legal right, because the property belongs to the Patriarchate. These people have assigned themselves as representative. To whom? I do not know. There are forces behind this protest that are supporting them to continue. This is my feeling.

Kuttab:  Now, the deal includes the parking lot, it includes the seminary, it includes the restaurant, and it includes five homes that will have to be removed if the contract is carried out. Is that correct?

Father Yeretzian:  No, it is not correct. The houses are not to be removed.

Kuttab:  The homes of Garo, Hagop, Vic

Father Yeretzian:   Yeah, I know it very well. There was no intention to take the people out of their houses, no eviction whatsoever.

Kuttab:  So, the houses are safe, even if the contract is carried out?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes, the houses were safe. Just it was going to be remodeling outside that part to make it more presentable. But there was no eviction. If the Patriarch wanted to take them out, he could do it, that is his right. I mean, that is his authority. If he wants to give them what you call another place to live or to buy some other places, there is something different. But it was not in the deal for them to be evicted. Never.

Kuttab: Do you have any regrets?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes, I do have regrets that I considered him [the patriarch] as a friend, but he is not.

Kuttab:  Okay. And do you request that the patriarch apologize to you?

Father Yeretzian:  At least that, he should do because he knows very well, that I was not at fault, and I am not. I am innocent. Whatever had happened there, it happened with his full knowledge and with his full authority. Who am I? Who am I, Mr. Kuttab to sign a contract and my signature over there was a signature of witnessing his signature? That is it.

Kuttab:  Do you think the contract allows to reverse or end the contract before it is carried out? Is there any clause to allow it to be annulled?

Father Yeretzian:  I do not think so. I do not remember if there is a clause like that, but I know one thing, if there is a breach of the contract from the investor side, the party has the right to cancel the deal. I know that.

Kuttab:  The lawyers who came from America say there are irregularities in the contract and that there is an opportunity to contest the contract because of these irregularities.

Father Yeretzian:  I do not know what kind of irregularities they are talking about, but one thing that they were referring to, one specific date, which was done, it was an error, a typographical error. And on the day of the signature, it is very clear. It specifies the date, the month, and the year signed by the lawyer in front of the patriarch and us. What kind of irregularities we are referring to? I do not know.

Kuttab:   The investor, Mr. Rothman. According to an investigation done by Al Jazeera, there are many problems, even in Israel. He does not have a very good reputation. Did you investigate before you made the commitment to this man? He does not seem to be very honest, man.

Father Yeretzian:  You know what I saw with this man? He is a very honest man, a very kind man, a very straightforward person. He knows his business very, very well. And I do not know where this information is coming from, and nobody told us anything about his character, about all the things that you are referring to, and I can assure you, he was an honest person.

Kuttab: You said that this property is the most expensive in the world.

Father Yeretzian: Yes, I can say it again. For us.

Kuttab:  Now, somebody made a calculation about how much you would profit from this property, and they feel that it is a very cheap price that you sold the property for. What do you say?

Father Yeretzian:  They have to go back to school and make their calculations. That is not the case. That is not the case. If they read the whole contract, they will see in the end, we will get much more money. Then these people are talking. Unfortunately, they do not understand, and they do not know the calculus.

Kuttab:  So, you are comfortable with this as a good contract for the Armenian church?

Father Yeretzian:  Yes. This was a commercial deal for us, and we were happy. It could have been better just for the experts to decide, but we had lawyers who knew about the real estate, and they advised us. That was a good sum of money. But I tell you again, Mr. Kuttab, they are referring to about $300,000. That is the minimum, minimum in the future. That will bring 800,000 to one million, more than a million income to the patriarchic every year, plus the index plus the profit.

Kuttab:  The patriarch brought a new real estate person after you. This happened before you were defrocked.

Father Yeretzian:  Yes.

Kuttab:  Do you think that the patriarch was planning all the time to do this to you? You think he had a plan. because he removed you got a new person and then he kicked you out. Do you think it was planned?

Father Yeretzian:  I think so. I think so. But when he dismissed me, I called him. I said, is there anything wrong or are you unhappy with us? He said, no, until now you did it. Let somebody else do it. Even a month before, two months before three priests who were members of the committee, we went to the patriarch We asked him again, Are you unhappy with us? Please tell us. He said, no, I am happy with you. And I was not alone. There were two other priests with me.

Kuttab:  You think the hotel will be built?

Father Yeretzian:  Well, I think so. If nothing else comes out, I do not know. That was the reason that the contract was signed.

Kuttab:  You do not think the patriarch will change? He said that in a few months, he will make a decision. Do you think he will reverse the decision, or he will hold on it?

Father Yeretzian: If he wants to reverse the decision, it is up to him. But he must know very, very well. There is legal ramifications. You should know that. You should know that he promised that four months ago, a month past two months, three months, four months. If he can do that, let him do it if he can do it,

Kuttab:  How much will it cost to cancel the contract?

Father Yeretzian:  I do not know. I am not an expert in those things. Neither knowledgeable.

Kuttab:  So, you did not have a clause in it to say, we can withdraw after 30-day notice and whatever.

Father Yeretzian:  No, no. I can assure you, Mr. Kuttab, that this deal was done in the best interest of the patriarchate, and I am telling you this, it could be much better. Some people think it is a matter of opinion, but I will assure you something. I work only for the Patriarchate for the best interest of the Patriarchate. I did not work for the Israelis. I did not work for the Palestinians. I did not work for the Jordanians. I worked for the patriarchate, period.

Kuttab:  So, you still feel that you were dealt with unfairly?

Father Yeretzian:  Mr. Kuttab? What they did to me, was unjust, and unfair. Let me add this to you. Many times, I advised the Patriarch, even before my dismissal when I was feeling all these things, I asked him, why you do not invite the lawyers, the investor,  even without me, to talk to these people, find out what you do if you are unhappy? He never did that. He did not want to confront his people. He did not want to talk to them. I do not understand his mind. Sometimes I advise him many, many times. I advised the synod to call the lawyers and talk to them but he did not. I do not know why


You did not talk to the community much. Did you talk to the head of the commitment, the clubs, the Humentmen, and the other Armenian clubs?

Father Yeretzian:  No. Why should I?

Kuttab:  Because they are part of your community.

Father Yeretzian:  No, no. I am a priest, not the patriarch, those people, do not represent anybody.

Kuttab:  You do not think the community has a right. At least say at least they should be involved. They are part of the overall Armenian presence in Jerusalem?

Father Yeretzian:   Legally, they do not have any jurisdiction to tell you the truth, but if they want to talk to the patriarch they could go and talk to him. I mean, nothing will stop them. I am sure the patriarch will accept them. Hopefully. Hopefully.

Kuttab:  I do not think so.

Father Yeretzian:  Yeah, hopefully. But many people came to me, and they talked to me before personally, and I told them, I said, what I said to you, I said, in my report, I said to everybody, this is the truth. I will not change any single word even before I die because I know what I did. I did it for the best interest of the Patriarchate. Some people think it is not, it is their opinion. But in my heart, I did it for the Patriarchate. I brought to the patriarchate seven million dollars cash in the bank plus our income was multiplied and the patriarchate was in a good financial situation. At least I did this for the patriarchate, and I protected our patriarchate’s real estate against those who wanted to abuse it.

Kuttab:  So, you do not regret what you did?

Father Yeretzian:  I personally, no. Of course not. I do not regret it. I regret nothing. I told you

Kuttab:  That you trusted the patriarch.

Father Yeretzian:  Yes.

Kuttab:  Thank you.

رابط المقال:

تكافح مجلة “ملح الأرض” من أجل الاستمرار في نشر تقارير تعرض أحوال المسيحيين العرب في الأردن وفلسطين ومناطق الجليل، ونحرص على تقديم مواضيع تزوّد قراءنا بمعلومات مفيدة لهم ، بالاعتماد على مصادر موثوقة، كما تركّز معظم اهتمامها على البحث عن التحديات التي تواجه المكون المسيحي في بلادنا، لنبقى كما نحن دائماً صوت مسيحي وطني حر يحترم رجال الدين وكنائسنا ولكن يرفض احتكار الحقيقة ويبحث عنها تماشيًا مع قول السيد المسيح و تعرفون الحق والحق يحرركم
من مبادئنا حرية التعبير للعلمانيين بصورة تكميلية لرأي الإكليروس الذي نحترمه. كما نؤيد بدون خجل الدعوة الكتابية للمساواة في أمور هامة مثل الإرث للمسيحيين وأهمية التوعية وتقديم النصح للمقبلين على الزواج وندعم العمل الاجتماعي ونشطاء المجتمع المدني المسيحيين و نحاول أن نسلط الضوء على قصص النجاح غير ناسيين من هم بحاجة للمساعدة الإنسانية والصحية والنفسية وغيرها.
والسبيل الوحيد للخروج من هذا الوضع هو بالتواصل والنقاش الحر، حول هويّاتنا وحول التغييرات التي نريدها في مجتمعاتنا، من أجل أن نفهم بشكل أفضل القوى التي تؤثّر في مجتمعاتنا،.
تستمر ملح الأرض في تشكيل مساحة افتراضية تُطرح فيها الأفكار بحرّية لتشكل ملاذاً مؤقتاً لنا بينما تبقى المساحات الحقيقية في ساحاتنا وشوارعنا بعيدة المنال.
كل مساهماتكم تُدفع لكتّابنا، وهم شباب وشابات يتحدّون المخاطر ليرووا قصصنا.

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