Success stories of Palestinian achievers from all over the world

Khalil Alsakakini

Personal Info

  • Country of residence: Palestine
  • Gender: Male
  • Born in: 1878
  • Age: 143
  • Curriculum vitae :


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

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.

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.


Achievements and Awards

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. 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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.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.


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