Available Between 1908-1923

​​​This was considered the most important Arabic language literary journal published in Palestine under Ottoman rule and the British Mandate. The journal was founded by author and journalist Khalil Ibrahim Khalif, known as Baydas (Nazareth 1874-Beirut 1949). He was a graduate of the new Russian Seminary in Nazareth (1886-1982). At the start of his career, Baydas worked in education, later serving as director general of the Russian schools in Palestine and Syria (1908), and as a teacher in the Orthodox school in Haifa.

Baydas is considered the pioneer of the novel and short story in Palestine. He translated from Russian to Arabic and vice versa, including works by Tolstoy, and published many original literary works as well as essays on history in Arabic, and textbooks in various fields. Baydas also wrote essays and short stories, for example Prison Stories (Hadith al-Sujun), about his detention and prison experiences in Jerusalem at the hands of the British Mandatory regime.1 Baydas apparently supported the Arab revolt against Ottoman rule, which led the authorities to sentence him to death. The Jerusalem Orthodox Patriarchate’s intervention led to a significant easing of the sentence and, with the entry of the British army into the country, eventually to his release.

During Ottoman rule, Baydas aspired to bring about a renaissance through education in the Arab countries. Alongside a return to classical Arabic literature, Baydas was an enthusiastic advocate of European literature, especially Russian literature, and in particular works of humanistic and social significance. This viewpoint explains his tremendous investment in writing fiction, historical essays and textbooks, and translating European and Russian works, alongside his endeavors in technological inventions. Despite his many undertakings, Baydas continued throughout in his role as an educator.

In early 1909 Baydas was appointed to the Orthodox Communal Council in Jerusalem. Subsequently he took up residence in Jerusalem, even moving the journal’s offices there. Baydas refused to work in the education ministry of the British Mandate, even after being offered to head the Arab education department, and preferred instead to continue working as a teacher in the local Saint George (Al-Mutran) school in Jerusalem, established in 1899.

Baydas also participated in demonstrations against the Mandatory regime and against Zionism. Thus for example, following a wave of protests on 27 February 1920, in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa, Baydas was arrested and tried (along with many others, including Haj Amin al-Husseini, 'Arif al-'Arif, and Musa Kazim Pasha al-Husseini/al-Husayni).2 Demonstrations followed announcement of the sentences. Upon Herbert Samuel’s assuming office (1 July 1920), release of all the detainees was declared.3 In May 1948 Baydas moved to Jordan and from there to Lebanon, where he died in 1949.

The first issue of the journal, originally published as a weekly, was on 1 November 1908. From the second issue, the journal was printed in the National printing house (al-matba'a al-wataniyya) in Haifa. From the tenth issue (1 January 1909) the journal became a bi-monthly and its name was changed to Al-Nafais Al-'Asriyya (this, it seems, because of a Lebanese newspaper with a similar name), and was published at the Syrian Orphanage (dar al-aytam al-suriyya) printing house, located near the Schneller orphanage in Jerusalem. Like other newspapers and journals, it ceased publication during World War I, and the last issue came out in October 1914. The journal resumed publication as a weekly on 26 July 1919, until issue no. 6 (30 August 1919). From issue 7 (15 September 1919) it was published twice a month (20 pages).

From the start of its appearance the journal succeeded in establishing itself as a quality literary magazine and aroused a literary discourse also in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. The journal even reached European countries and the United States. Important intellectuals, authors, poets, and educators wrote for it, including Is'af al-Nashashibi (Jerusalem 1882- Cairo 1948), Khalil al-Sakakini (Jerusalem 1878-Cairo 1953), 'Ali al-Rimawi (Kfar Beit Rima, Ramallah district 1860-Jerusalem 1919), and Iskandar al-Khuri al-Bitjali (Beit Jala 1888-1973).

The journal finally ceased publication in 1924 (1923, according to some sources).4


1 The essay was published in volume 7, no. 18 on 15 September 1920, pp. 253-58, 267-74, 283-88.
2 Mustafa al-Dabagh claims that other than Haj Amin and Al-'Arif who were sentenced to ten year terms, the rest were given 3 to 5 year sentences (see الدباغ، بلادنا فلسطين، المجلد 10، ص 249). Al-'Aqqad claims that Baydas was arrested and sentenced to death.
(أحمد خليل العقاد، الصحافة العربية في فلسطين 1876- 1948، ط1، دمشق: مطبعة الوفاء، جميع الحقوق محفوظة للمؤلف، 1966 - ط2، دار العروبة للطباعة والنشر، 1967-، ص 184).
It seems that al-'Aqqad confused this arrest for the one in the Ottoman period, as mentioned above.
Ibid., 184.
3 Following al-'Aqqad, (Ibid., 85), Kasmieh claims that the journal renewed publication under the British Mandate for nine years, until 1926.
4 (see Khairia Kasmieh, "The Leading Intellectuals of Late Ottoman Jerusalem and their Biographies," S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds.), Ottoman Jerusalem — The Living City: 1517-1917, vol. 1, London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000, pp. 37-44, 41).