Khalil Beidas

Khalil Beidas

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Khalil Beidas (1874–1949) was a Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 Christian scholar, educator, translator and novelist. Beidas was the father of Palestinian Lebanese
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 banker Yousef Beidas
Yousef Beidas
Yousef Beidas was a Palestinian Lebanese banker...

 and was a cousin of Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

's father according to Said's autobiography.

Alongside contemporaries such as Khalil al-Sakakini
Khalil al-Sakakini
Khalil al-Sakakini was a Palestinian Christian, Arab Orthodox, educator, scholar, poet, and Arab nationalist.-Early life:Khalil Sakakini was born into an Arab Christian family in Jerusalem on January 23, 1878...

, Muhammad Izzat Darwazeh and Najib Nassar, Beidas was one of Palestine's foremost intellectuals in the early twentieth century during the Al-Nahda
Al-Nahda was a cultural renaissance that began in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Egypt, then later moving to Ottoman-ruled Arabic-speaking regions including Lebanon, Syria and others...

 cultural renaissance. Beidas was the pioneer of the modern Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

ine short-story and novel. He was also a prolific translator—as early as 1898, he had translated some of the works of Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

 and Pushkin into Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. In addition, he established a magazine, "an-Nafa'is al-'Asriyyah" (النفائس العصرية, The Modern Treasures), which acquired a good name in literary circles both in the Ottoman vilayet of Syria (broadly corresponding to today’s Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, Palestine
Palestinian territories
The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, the region is today recognized by three-quarters of the world's countries as the State of Palestine or simply Palestine, although this status is not recognized by the...

, Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, and Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

) and the Palestinian Diaspora.

Education and career

Beidas was born in Nazareth in 1874 and studied at the Russian Orthodox
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 ‘’al-Moscowbia’’ and the Russian Teachers’ Training Centre until his graduation in 1892. Beidas’ education was on a basis of classical Arab culture, and despite being a Christian Beidas was renowned as a hafiz. In his early twenties, Beidas was appointed headmaster of Russian missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 schools in many parts of Syria and Palestine. Later, he became the senior Arabic teacher at St. George’s Anglican
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 School in Jerusalem.

Beidas travelled in Russia after his graduation in 1892 as a ward of the Russian Orthodox Church, where he was influenced by the ideas of the late-19th century cultural nationalists such as Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays. He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov....

, Gorky
Maxim Gorky
Alexei Maximovich Peshkov , primarily known as Maxim Gorky , was a Russian and Soviet author, a founder of the Socialist Realism literary method and a political activist.-Early years:...

 and Tolstoy. On returning to Palestine, Beidas became a prolific translator, introducing the major figures in Russian literature
Russian literature
Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union...

 to the Arab reader. His technique in translation
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 was distinctive—he translated freely, adding or omitting until he achieved what he considered to be the basic aim of the novel, that which is derived from everyday life and human nature. His style tended to be naturally elegant, humorous and sarcastic.

Given his strong connections with the Russian Orthodox Church, Beidas became a leading member of Palestine's Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 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.

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 and European history.

Beidas’ was a key proponent of the Palestinian national
Palestinian nationalism
Palestinian nationalism is the national movement of the Palestinian people. It has roots in Pan-Arabism and other movements rejecting colonialism and calling for national independence. More recently, Palestinian Nationalism is expressed through the Israeli–Palestinian conflict...

 movement, through his journal An-Nafa’is as well as through a number of public speeches and articles in major Arabic (Egyptian) newspapers such as Al-Ahram
Al-Ahram , founded in 1875, is the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper, and the second oldest after al-Waqa'i`al-Masriya . It is majority owned by the Egyptian government....

and Al-Muqattam. Beidas tried to raise awareness of the threat from the Zionist
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 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
The name Stradivarius is associated with violins built by members of the Stradivari family, particularly Antonio Stradivari. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or reproduce, though this belief is controversial...

 violin, all of which were lost when he was forced to flee to Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

 after the creation of Israel
Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
The Israeli Declaration of Independence , made on 14 May 1948 , the day before the British Mandate was due to expire, was the announcement by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, that the new Jewish state named the...

 in 1948. Khalil Beidas’ library is thought to reside within the Jewish National Library
Jewish National and University Library
The National Library of Israel , is the national library of Israel...

 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...



Beidas’ periodical, an-Nafa'is al-'Asriyyah (النفائس العصرية, The Modern Treasures), was founded in 1908 in Haifa (transferred to Jerusalem in 1911) and became one of the most popular periodicals amongst Arabs living both within the Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 and in the Diaspora.

Beidas was in full technical control of the journal, editing most of the contents himself. It became a mouthpiece for all major active writers in Greater Syria
Greater Syria
Greater Syria , also known simply as Syria, is a term that denotes a region in the Near East bordering the Eastern Mediterranean Sea or the Levant....

 and the Diaspora and was distributed widely, as far a field as Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 and Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. An-Nafa’is became a distinguished institution, benefiting from the general cultural awakening in the region and the increased focus on literary and scientific matters.

In the preface to the first issue of An-Nafa’is, Beidas explained that he considered novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s to be one of the great pillars of civilisation in the enlightenment of the mind and his aim was to draw readers’ attention to the significance of narrative art from the intellectual, social and moral point of view.

Selected works

  • Ibnat al Qubtan (ابنة القبطان, Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter
    The Captain's Daughter
    The Captain's Daughter is a historical novel by the Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. It was first published in 1836 in the fourth issue of the literary journal Sovremennik. The novel is a romanticized account of Pugachev's Rebellion in 1773-1774....

    ), Beirut, 1898
  • Al-Tabib al-Hathiq (الطبيب الحاذق, The Skilled Physician), Beirut, 1898
  • Al-Quzaqi al-Walhan (The Distracted Caucasian), Beirut, 1899
  • History of Ancient Russia, Beirut, 1899
  • Several educational books
  • Several textbooks on arithmetic

  • Shaqa' al-Muluk (The Misery of Kings), 1908
  • Ahwal al-Istibdad (The Terrors of Totalitarianism), 1909
  • Henry Al-Thamin (Henry VIII), Jerusalem, 1913
  • Al-Hasna' Al-Muntakira (The Disguised Beauty), Jerusalem, 1919
  • Al-Arch wa Al-Heb, 1919
  • Al-Warath, 1919
  • Al-Tayaran (The History of Flight), Cairo, 1912
  • Rihla ila Sina (Trip to Sinai), Beirut, 1912
  • Muluk al-Rus (The Tsars of Russia), Jerusalem, 1913
  • Darajat Al-Hisab (Grades of Arithmetic), Volumes I and II, Jerusalem 1914
  • Al-Qira'a (Grades of Reading), Volumes I–VII, Jerusalem, 1913–21
  • Umam Al-Balkan (The Balkan States), Jerusalem, 1914

Collections of short stories
  • Ifaaq Al-Fakar (آفاق الفكر), c.1924
  • Masarih Al-Adhhan (مسارح الأذهان), c.1924

External links