- Yawmiyyat Khalil al-Sakakini, Vol. 8, 1942-1952: al-Khuruj min al-Qatamon [Diaries of Khalil al-Sakakini, Vol. 8, 1942-1952: The Exodus from Qatamon]
Khalil al-Sakakini (1878-1953), a leading Palestinian Christian educator and intellectual and one of the most colorful figures in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman and British Mandate period, was a prominent socialite and man of letters. Among those who frequented his Jerusalem house, at the affluent suburb Qatamon, were local political leaders and younger Palestinian intellectuals, as well as prominent intellectuals from the Arab world.
Like other intellectuals of his time, Sakakini, too, was captivated by the idea of Arab nationalism as the new century dawned, and later on was drawn into the ranks of the emerging Palestinian Arab national movement. However, Sakakini, a complex figure, harbored doubts and second thoughts regarding his own place within it.
It is against this backdrop that the current publication should be viewed. Sakakini wrote his diaries in Arabic, spanning from the beginning of the 20th century, and nearly to his death, recording both personal life and national events. The diaries are a treasure trove of Palestinian political, social, and cultural history, and can truly be said to encapsulate the Palestinian Arab zeitgeist. They were first published by Khalil's daughter, [End Page 519] Hala al-Sakakini, in 1955, in an abridged and edited version called Kadha Ana, Ya Dunya [Such Am I, Oh World]. This edition became quite known in the Palestinian community, and was meticulously translated to Hebrew by Gideon Shiloh and published in 1990, thus making acquaintance to the Israeli learned public as well. Throughout the years, the Sakakini diaries constituted a primary source for historians ranging from Elie Kedourie to Tom Segev, and Sakakini himself became an icon. It is indeed timely that in the early 2000s, following the death of Hala al-Sakakini, the Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah and the Institute for Jerusalem Studies, a Palestinian East Jerusalem branch of the Institute for Palestine Studies, endeavored to publish the diaries in full version. It turned out that some thoughts and even events were censured at the time by Hala al-Sakakini, and the printed diaries increased from one volume to eight (due not only to abbreviations and omissions made in the older edition, but also to change in format, inclusion of photographs, etc.).
This project has been completed with the publication of Volume 8, which covers the years 1942-1952. Despite this timeframe, the main interest is, as the title reveals, in the turbulent times of 1948 and the exodus from Qatamon, following which Sakakini and his family fled their home and became refugees in Egypt. Sakakini's account of 1948 and the battle over Qatamon were reviewed in the historical literature of 1948. The interesting question, from the historian's vantage point, is of course whether new details on Qatamon — its fall and its residents in 1948 — would be revealed in the unabridged edition. Such innovations can be fundamental in interpreting the Palestinian exodus from the main cities (Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa) in 1948, of which there are few firsthand contemporary accounts such as Sakakini's. And indeed, despite the fact that most of the important part of the diaries already had been published by Hala, there are some innovations. Thus, for example, in two cases a Christian neighbor of Sakakini was arrested, and another was beaten by villager Muslim fighters who came to aid Qatamon. Sakakini, who in general expressed vehement support for the rural fighters, exclaimed "we were facing one danger [the Jews], and now we face two" but in a typical way immediately resorted to a justification of these acts, in recognition of the fighters' role in defending his neighborhood (p. 247). This case may indeed contribute to more insights on the inter-relations between bourgeois Palestinians and rural fighters in the...