Model Role Details

Khalil Beidas

Khalil Beidas

Sector : Cultural Figures , Writers

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1874
  • Age: 143
  • Curriculum vitae :


Khalil Beidas was a Palestinian Christian scholar, educator, translator and novelist. Beidas was the father of Palestinian Lebanese banker Yousef Beidas and was a cousin of Edward Said's father.

Alongside contemporaries such as Khalil al-Sakakini, Muhammad Izzat Darwazeh and Najib Nassar, Beidas was one of Palestine's foremost intellectuals in the early twentieth century during the Al-Nahda cultural renaissance.

Beidas was the pioneer of the modern Levantine short-story and novel. He was also a prolific translator—as early as 1898, he had translated some of the works of Tolstoy and Pushkin into Arabic.

In addition, he established a magazine, "al-Nafā'is al-'asriyyah" )(The Modern Treasures), which acquired a good name in literary circles both in the Ottoman vilayet of Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon) and the Palestinian Diaspora.

Beidas is also known as Raʾid al-qissa al-filastiniyya (the pioneer of Palestinian short-story). He and his wife, Adele, had 4 sons and 4 daughters.

Education and career

Beidas was born in Nazareth in 1874 and studied at the Russian Orthodox al-Muskubīya (presently, according to Edward Said, a detention and interrogation centre predominantly for Palestinians) and the Russian Teachers' Training Centre in Nazareth, which had been founded in that town in 1886.

There were no tuition fees for Palestinian students, and though teaching was in Arabic, high importance was placed on studying Russian. In his recollections, Beidas stated that:'In those days, Russian schools in Palestine were, without doubt, the best.' He graduated in 1892.

Beidas' education was on a basis of classical Arab culture, and, though a Christian, Beidas achieved renown as a hafiz.

In his early twenties, Beidas was appointed headmaster of Russian missionary schools in many parts of Syria and Palestine. Later, he became the senior Arabic teacher at Anglican-run St. George's School in Jerusalem. 

Beidas travelled in Russia after his graduation in 1892 as a ward of the Russian Orthodox Church, and during his sojourn there came under the influence of ideas of Nikolai Berdyaev, of late 19th century Russian cultural nationalists like Dostoevsky and by writers like Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy.

On returning to Palestine, Beidas became a prolific translator, and a dominant figure in introducing the major writers of Russian literature to the Arabic-speaking world. It was also through their Russian translations that he turned out many versions of major English, French, German and Italian writers.

These innovative translations had a wide impact, not only in Palestine where he was a pioneer in the development of a modern literature, but more broadly throughout the Arab world, influencing authors as various as the Iraqi Ma’rūf al Rusāfī(1875–1945), the Lebanese Halīm Dammūs (1888–1957) and Wadī’ al-Bustānī (1888–1945), Syrian authors like Qistākī al-Himsī (1858–1931).

His technique in translation was distinctive—he translated freely, a creative 'arabization' that embroidered or curtailed the origins until he achieved what he considered to be the basic aim of the novel, that which is derived from everyday life and human nature.

According to Edward Said Later, Beidas's novels played an important role in the 'construction of a Palestinian national identity, particularly with regard to the influx of Zionist settlers.

He played an important role also in the 1930s in the development of Palestinian theatre, which thrived down to 1948. 

Given his strong connections with the Russian Orthodox Church, Beidas became a leading member of Palestine's Orthodox church, representing the Orthodox Christians of Northern Palestine at the Combined Council of Arab Orthodox and Greek Clergy which was charged to administer Orthodox affairs in Jerusalem.

On the occasion of the Nebi Musa riots of 1920, which arose in protest at the incipient implementation by the British Mandatory authorities of the Balfour Declaration's opening of Zionist immigration into Palestine, Beidas was one of the key speakers, credited with giving a 'soul-stirring speech.

Some speakers were thought to be incendiary: the crowd responded by chanting 'we will drink the blood of the Jews'( Nashrab dam al-yahud.) Beidas's own words concluding with the remark,'My voice is weakening with emotion, but my national heart will never weaken'.

He, together with several others, was rounded up and detained. He was released in 1921, according to one account in the expectation that lenience would secure his support and mitigate his opposition.

Overtures came from the French Mandatory authorities in Lebanon to "grease his palm" and get him to write political propaganda against the British, an offer he refused on the grounds that he had no intention of being either a lackey of the British or a sycophant of the French. Soon after, in 1922, he published his history of the city of Jerusalem,Ta'rikh al-Quds (History of Jerusalem), (1922) A short story collection Masarih al-Adh'han (Pastures of the Mind) came out in 1924 and displays his use of fiction to moralise and edify the reader.

Beidas was interested in European culture, especially with its humanitarian and social aspects and, prompted by the contemporary Russian cultural resurgence to which he had been exposed, called for a comprehensive cultural revival in the Arab world.

His own cultural works were multi-faceted: literary criticism, educational textbooks, translation of major foreign works of fiction, works on linguistics, political speeches and articles and works of Arab, Greek and European history.

Beidas' was a main proponent of the Palestinian national movement, through his journal Al-Nāfa'is as well as through a number of public speeches and articles in major Arabic (Egyptian) newspapers such as Al-Ahram and Al-Muqattam.

Beidas tried to raise awareness of the threat from the Zionist immigrants, and urged the Ottoman authorities to treat the Arabs fairly.

Beidas established a unique library of old manuscripts, valuable books as well as a Stradivarius violin, all of which were lost.

Beidas did not outlive very long the loss of his country, and his library is thought to reside within the Jewish National Libraryat the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


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