In William Dalrymple’s “From the Holy Mountain” (Owl Books, 1999), I encountered his dialogue with two Turks converting an Armenian cathedral to a mosque.

During his trip to the Middle East, Dalrymple visited Urfa (now Sanliurfa, Republic of Turkey), a heavily Armenian populated city before the Armenian genocide, where my ancestral family is from. Below is an excerpt from page 78:

Attached Image
This ancient cathedral, where 3000 Armenians were burnt in 1915, functioned as fire station until 1994, when it was converted to a mosque. One of the many photos of Urfa’s Armenian cathedral that my Dutch pen pal Dick Osseman took for me in the fall of 2005.

One my way back to the hotel I passed the old Armenian cathedral. Between 1915 and last year it was a fire station; now, as I discovered, it is being converted into a mosque. The altar has been dismantled, leaving the apse empty. A mihrab has been punched into the south wall/ A new carpet covers the floor; outside lies a pile of old ecclesiastical woodwork destined for firewood. Two labourers in baggy pantaloons were at work on the façade, balanced on a rickety lattice of scaffolding, plastering the decorative stonework over the principal arch. I wondered if they knew the history of the building, so I asked them if it was an old mosque.
‘No,’ one of the workmen shouted down. ‘It’s a church.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘Armenian.’
‘Are there any Armenians left in Urfa?’
‘No,’ he said, smiling broadly and laughing. His friend made a throat-cutting gesture with his trowel.
‘They’ve all gone,’ said the first man, smiling.
‘Where to?’
The two looked at each other: ‘Israel,’ said the first man, after a pause. He was grinning from ear to ear.
‘I thought Israel was for Jews,’ I said.
‘Jews, Armenians,’ he replied, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Same thing.’
The two men went back to work, cackling with laughter as they did so.