Model Role Details

Khalil al-Sakakini

Khalil al-Sakakini

Sector : Cultural Figures , Poets

Personal Info

  • Country of residence : Palestine
  • Gender : Male
  • Born in : 1878
  • Age : 139
  • Curriculum vitae :


Khalil al-Sakakini "born on August 13, 1878" was a Palestinian Christian, Orthodox, teacher, scholar, poet, and Arab nationalist.

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

Later, Sakakini traveled to the United Kingdom and from there to the United States to join his brother Yusif, an itinerant salesman living in Philadelphia.

During his nine-month stay in America, Khalil Sakakini 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 factory in Maine; he even worked as a street vendor. Upon his return in 1908, Khalil Sakakini worked as a journalist for the Jerusalem newspaper al-Asmai', taught Arabic at the Salahiyya school and tutored expatriates at the American Colony.


In 1909, Khalil Sakakini founded the Dusturiyyah school or National School, which became known for its Arab nationalist approach.

Sakakini pioneered a progressive education system: no grades, prizes or punishments for the students, and emphasis being placed on music, education and athletics.

He also introduced new methods of teaching Arabic, and made it the primary language of instruction instead of Turkish.

Wasif Jawhariyyeh, noted for his memoirs of early 20th century Jerusalem, was a pupil of his in the Dusturiyyah School. He praised Sakakini's education style.

"Mr. al-Sakakini taught us Arabic in a way that was very popular with the students. He used a method which, to my knowledge, few teachers in the East liked to use. He did not make students memorize rules of grammar like most teachers used to do ... His lessons included anecdotes which the students of this great educator received with eagerness and excitement. For with him they were able to understand what it took them long hours to grasp with other teachers. He instilled in them patriotism and manliness. ... Having chosen to name his school the “Dusturiyyeh,” or National, School, al-Sakakini was the first to ban corporal punishment in education, and this wise stance spread to other schools. Whenever he noticed the slightest inappropriate conduct on the part of a student, particularly on the moral level, not withstanding his fatherly love for the pupil in question, he went berserk and pulled on an angry face, frightening the student who had the utmost respect and esteem for him and who would then amend his behavior immediately."

       — Wasif Jawhariyyeh, The Storyteller of Jerusalem

Sakakini led a movement to reform and change into a more Arab approach to what he considered to be a corrupt Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and wrote a pamphlet in 1913 titled "The Orthodox Renaissance in Palestine", which led to his excommunication from the Greek Orthodox Church. Ottoman authorities arrested him on the last day of Ottoman Rule in Jerusalem in 1917, after he had sheltered a Polish-American Jew and fellow citizen of Jerusalem, Alter Levine. Both were sent to a prison in Damascus. Levine became an enemy when the United States joined the Allies of World War I. Even so, Alter Levine and Khalil Sakakini became close friends during their incarceration. Upon his release, Sakakini boarded for a brief time with Musa Alami, a former pupil, and then joined the Arab Revolt, for which he composed its anthem. 

In 1919, Khalil Sakakini and his wife began to work for the Educational Authority of Palestine in Jerusalem, and Sakakini was appointed head of the Jerusalem Teachers’ College. He later became Inspector for Education in Palestine, a post he held for 12 years, until his resignation in protest of the appointment of a Jew as High Commissioner of the Palestine Mandate, Herbert Samuel. After working as a school principal in Cairo, he returned to Palestine in 1926 and became a school inspector. This allowed him to bring his educational philosophy to the 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 Katamonneighborhood, taking three years to complete.


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