Khalil al-Sakakini: Wikis


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Khalil Sakakini

Khalil al-Sakakini (Arabic: خليل السكاكيني‎; January 23, 1878 - August 13, 1953) was a Palestinian Christian, Arab Orthodox, educator, scholar, poet, and Arab nationalist.


Early life

Khalil Sakakini was born into a Arab Christian family in Jerusalem on January 23, 1878. He received his schooling in Jerusalem at the Greek Orthodox school, at the Anglican Christian Mission Society (CMS) College founded by Bishop Blyth, and at the Zion English College where he read Literature.[1]

Later, Sakakini travelled to the United Kingdom and from there to the United States to join his brother Yusif, a travelling salesman in Philadelphia. During his nine-month stay in America, he translated and wrote for Arabic literary magazines on the East Coast, and did translations for Professor Richard Gottheil at Columbia University. He supported himself by teaching Arabic and working in a Maine factory. He also worked as a street vendor. Upon his return in 1908, he worked as a journalist for the Jerusalem newspaper al-Asmai', taught Arabic at the Salahiyya school and tutored expatriates at the American Colony.[1][2]


In 1909, he founded the Dusturiyyah school, which became known for its Arab nationalist approach. He pioneered a progressive education system: no grades, prizes or punishments for students, and an emphasis on music education and athletics. He also introduced new methods of teaching Arabic, and made it the primary language of instruction instead of Turkish. [2] Sakakini led a movement to reform and Arabize what he saw as a corrupt Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and wrote a pamphlet in 1913 titled "The Orthodox Renaissance in Palestine", which led to his excommunication. Ottoman authorities arrested him on the last day of their rule in 1917 after he sheltered a Polish-American Jew and fellow Jerusalemite, Alter Levine. They were sent to prison in Damascus. Levine was declared an enemy when the United States joined the Allies of World War I. The two became close friends during their incarceration.[3] After his release, Sakakini boarded for a brief time with Musa Alami, a former pupil, and then joined the Arab Revolt, whose anthem he composed.[4]

In 1919, Sakakini and his wife began to work for the Educational Authority of Palestine in Jerusalem, and Sakakinin was appointed head of the Jerusalem Teachers’ College. He later became Inspector for Education for Palestine, a post he held for 12 years, until his resignation in protest at the appointment of a Jew as High Commissioner of the Palestine Mandate, Herbert Samuel.[5] After working as a school principal in Cairo, he returned in 1926 and became an educational inspector. This allowed him to bring his educational philosophy to rural villages. At the same time, he wrote political commentaries for the newspapers al-Muqtataf, al-Hilal and al-Siyassa al-Usbu'iyya, composed patriotic poems and spoke at political rallies. In 1925, he founded the Wataniyya school, and in 1938 the Nahda College in Jerusalem. In May 1934, Sakakini invested much time and energy in building a new home in the Katamon neighbourhood, which took three years to complete.[6]

Later life

Khalil Sakakini's wife, Sultana, died in October 1939 and was buried in the Greek Orthodox cemetery on Mount Zion. He mourned her for the rest of his days, and wrote poems eulogizing her. His son, Sari, completed his Master's degree at the University of Michigan and returned to Jerusalem, to work at the American consulate. [7]

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Sakakinis were one of the last families to leave the Katamon neighbourhood. A few days before the city was divided, the Sakakini family fled to Cairo. Sakakini was nominated by the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein to join the Arabic Language Academy.[8]

Sari Sakakini's sudden death of a heart attack in 1953 at the age of 39 was a devastating blow. Khalil Sakakini died three months later, on August 13, 1953.[8] Sakakini's two daughters, Dumya and Hala, lived together in Ramallah until their deaths, in 2002 and 2003. The two sisters had long careers in education. Hala edited her father's journals, published in 1955, and wrote two memoirs in English, Jerusalem and I and Twosome.[9]


Throughout his life Sakakini embraced European culture. Having a Greek grandmother led to an interest in Greek music and Greek philosophy. He even nicknamed himself "Socrates".[10]

Sakakini often expressed humanistic ideas, and had a business card made out to read "Khalil Sakakini: human being, God willing". At the same time, he defined himself first and foremost as an Arab, and is hailed as one of the founding fathers of Arab nationalism in the region. He was an advocate of Pan-Arabism and envisaged Palestine united with Syria. He saw Zionism as a great threat and believed that the Jewish right to the land had expired while the Arab right was "a living one".[11][12]

During the 1936-1939 Arab revolt, he applauded the Arab attacks on Jews; worried that the rebellion's violence looked bad in the public eye because 'the Jews controlled the newspapers and radio', he concluded that 'the sword was mightier than the book'. On the grenade attack of a Jewish civilian train, he praised the "heroes" responsible.[13] After the attack on Jerusalem's Edison cinema that left three dead, he wrote:

"There is no other heroism like this, except the heroism of Sheikh al-Qassam".[14]

Yet the terrorism still bothered him at times:

"I feel the pain of the troubles, whether they fall on Arabs or on the English or on the Jews. For that reason you will sometimes find me on the side of the Arabs, at others times on the side of the English, and still other times on the side of the Jews. And if there were animals who suffered from even a faint whiff of these troubles, I would sometimes be on the side of the animals.[15]

Sakakini also came to believe that Nazi Germany might weaken the British and 'liberate Palestine from the Jew', so he supported the Nazis. He wrote that Adolf Hitler had opened the World's eyes to the myth of Jewish power, and that Germany had stood up to the Jews and put them in their place as Mussolini had done to the British.[16]

Sakakini vehemently opposed allowing Holocaust survivors into Palestine, arguing that a human problem needed to be solved by all humanity. While saddened by events like the sinking of the Jewish refugee ship Struma, he felt that the passengers were in fact invaders that an independent Palestinian Arab government could have used force to prevent from landing, and he felt that while elderly Jews could come to live out their last years as in generations past, a thriving community under British protection should be forbidden.[17] He believed that the Holocaust was being exploited parasitically by Jews demanding a homeland in Palestine, who he said would throw the Arabs out as soon as they got it. Due to supposed Jewish influence in the United States, he believed that their right to vote should be revoked in that country.[18]

Sakakini was a lifelong advocate of social reform. He tried to inculcate principles of students' liberation, sex education, socialist and other progressive ideas, and believed in free mingling of the sexes. He was pained by the thought of his children living in Palestine, even though he wrote of the country as a Garden of Eden. He wanted his children to live in a nobler country, and dreamed of emigrating if he could. Palestinian Arab culture held values "of honour and family connections, of let us eat and drink and grow strong and attack" he asserted, rather than of "let us sacrifice and forgive and respect and have compassion".[19]


Khalil Sakakini's published work includes educational treatises, poetry collections, literary, philosophical and political essays, and a diary. A street and a school in Jerusalem are named after him, as well as the Jezzar Pasha Mosque's library in Acre and a street in Cairo. His papers are now at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is buried at the Mar Gerges Cemetery in Cairo.

In 2001, the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center successfully petitioned the municipality of Ramallah to rename the main thoroughfare nearest the centre after Khalil Sakakini. The same year, the centre began editing and publishing the diary of Khalil Sakakini, which he kept from 1907 to 1952. The first volume of the projected eight came out in 2003. The same year, Sakakini's heirs bequeathed the centre his valuable papers, books, and personal effects. They are currently displayed in the foyer.


  1. ^ a b Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 27–29. ISBN 0805048480.  
  2. ^ a b Salim Tamari (February 2003). "A Miserable Year in Brooklyn: Khalil Sakakini in America, 1907 - 1908". Institute of Jerusalem Studies.  
  3. ^ Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 14. ISBN 0805048480.  
  4. ^ Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 77–81. ISBN 0805048480.  
  5. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 138, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 147. ISBN 0805048480. "He made sure everybody knew why he had resigned - he would not work under a Jewish high commissioner."  
  6. ^ Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 187, 270. ISBN 0805048480.  
  7. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 199ff; Hala Sakakini, Jerusalem and I (Amman: n.p., 1987), p76ff.; Sakakini to his son, 17 January, 1933 ISA P/378/2646 in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 447–448, 466–467. ISBN 0805048480.  
  8. ^ a b Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 230, 227, 228, 243 in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 502–503, 507. ISBN 0805048480.  
  9. ^
  10. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 121, 125, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 108. ISBN 0805048480.  
  11. ^ "If we do not unite to resist Zionism, we would lose Palestine and expose others to danger", translated from [1]
  12. ^ "We want the country under the sponsorship of a single power, and so we will preserve our unity...The country that saves us from Zionism and from partition - that country we will prefer above all others." Sakakini on preferring US over British rule, Such Am I, O World, pp. 130, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 152. ISBN 0805048480.  
  13. ^ Sakakini diary, 10 June, 13 June, 16 June 1936; 30 April, 5 May, 7 May, 23 May 1936, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 368. ISBN 0805048480.  
  14. ^ Sakakini to his son, 13 June, 1936, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 365. ISBN 0805048480.  
  15. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 191, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 373. ISBN 0805048480.  
  16. ^ Hala Sakakini, Jerusalem and I (Amman: n.p., 1987), p54ff. Khalil Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 187, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 411. ISBN 0805048480.  
  17. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 203; Sakakini diary 1 March, 1942 in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 461–462. ISBN 0805048480.  
  18. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 221, in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. p. 492. ISBN 0805048480.  
  19. ^ Sakakini, Such Am I, O World, pp. 192, 194, p.156ff, 175, 148, Sakakini to his son, 12 December, 1932, 7 January, 1933, 12 January, 1933, ISA P/378/2646 in Segev, Tom (1999). One Palestine, Complete. Metropolitan Books. pp. 372–373. ISBN 0805048480.  

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