First of all, I want to make it clear that this lecture is not a memorial service for the late, it is enough to commemorate his memory. I will leave such a solemn ceremony to the people of Bethlehem and to all sectors in this city that the late served.

I hope that this lecture will be the first in a series of lectures on the pioneers of the modern renaissance in Bethlehem in the twentieth century. I would like to point out the first generation of people like the late Youhanna Khalil Dakrit, the novelist, journalist and social reformer who worked alongside our deceased in founding the Literary Club and in issuing the Bethlehem Magazine between 1919 and 1921, and the late Khalil Ibrahim Kazakia, the pioneer of the Orthodox national movement in Beit Behem and Palestine, and a member of the Arab Executive Committee, who sacrificed everything in order to raise the status of his people and sect.

In drafting this lecture, I relied on many sources, including the study that I prepared on intellectual and journalistic developments in Bethlehem and Palestine at the Institute of Higher Studies at Indiana University. Also, the many exchanged letters with the deceased, the preparation of the Bethlehem Magazine, the Voice of the People, and articles about the deceased that appeared in the Bethlahemite Nativity magazine, and the Beirut Adib magazine. And in Al-Fajr newspaper, not to mention the records of the Bethlehem municipality, documents and reports, books and articles dated with the daughter of the late Suad Abu Rudeina (Umm Nabil).

                                                                                                                                                           It’s upbringing

The late was born in Bethlehem in 1898 to the priest Basil Michael Bandak and to Maryam Nastas Bandak, and the priest Basil was an active member of his community and one of the founders of the Orthodox National Assembly in Bethlehem. Issa received his primary, preparatory and secondary studies at the Orthodox School, at the Freire College in Bethlehem, and at the Freire College in Jerusalem. During the First World War, he worked in the Ottoman telegraph services in the Levant in Safita, Homs and Salt, and upon the arrival of the English forces on the outskirts of Jerusalem on December 9, 1917, the deceased was working in the telegraph office in the city and he told me in a letter that he was the one who took the telegram of Anwar Pasha – the strong man in Astana – and handed it to the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem. The telegram stipulated the complete Ottoman withdrawal from Jerusalem without taking any action harmful to the holy places. After entering the English, the deceased joined the teaching profession as a professor of Arabic language at the Freire School in 1922. He married at an early age to Zahia Ibrahim Zayed, and that was in the year 1920. She gave birth to Youssef, Olga, Souad, Riyadh, Ghazi, May, Mazen and Jihad.

The role he played in Bethlehem: (Also see chapter five in this book)

Let us go back a little to the first years, after the end of the First World War, i.e. too early 1919, when a group of Bethlehem youth decided to establish the Literary Club to spread nationalist thought, eliminate fanaticism, and reform society. Among the active members were Yaqoub Jasser, Dr. Youssef Abu Al-Araj, Youssef Yaqoub Al-Dabdoub, Khalil Al-Dabdoub, Khalil Issa Morcos, and Khalil Qazakia. In addition to the club’s political activities, such as organizing popular marches against Britain’s policy, the members adopted local activities, such as opening a night school for adult education, which 100 students attended. The main goal was to lay the foundations of an integrated secular society liberated from the yoke of ignorance, fanaticism, sectarianism, and claim, and capable of walking in the procession of twentieth-century civilization. This club made room for Dakret and Al-Bindak to think that the best way to express what was inside of themselves was to issue a social and literary magazine, and indeed this magazine began to appear starting in September 1919, and the browser to prepare this magazine sees a large range of social, political, economic and literary articles aimed first and last To liberate the country from the yoke of enslavement to implant love for the homeland in the hearts, and to eradicate the deadly social diseases that prevent the achievement of national unity (such as ignorance, fanaticism, sectarianism, and claim). In the June 1920 issue, the magazine commented on the fighting that took place between two clans in the Bethlehem region, saying:

“We, the Orientals, have some customs that are not found in the most high-end nations and others that are not found in the lowest and lowest nations. As long as we are in the twentieth century, the century of light and the city, it is necessary for us to renounce all base habits, such as singing in the streets and going to weddings without invitation and offering excuses… And we direct our discourse to decadence. Which only smells of barbarism… We hope that the thinkers of the hamal will pay attention and avoid all these myths and superstitions.” (See also chapter 5 of this book.)

In 1921, the late Yohanna Khalil Dakrt was forced to travel to America with his father after the Bethlehem magazine ceased publication. At the same time, a financial catastrophe occurred in the wheat trade that they practiced in Jerusalem. With his departure, the activities of the Literary Club and Bethlehem magazine were frozen, and thus Bethlehem and Palestine lost a young man. One of her best-committed youth, the deceased told me in one of his letters: “When I was left alone and had nothing at all, I took a second adventure relying on myself, defying all obstacles and issuing the Voice of the People starting on May 11, 1922. In 1925, some of my friends in the house of Bethlehem, including Youssef Yaqoub Al-Dabdoub, Hanna Miladah, and Khalil Issa Morcos, that they bought me a printing house and entrusted Khalil Morcos with receiving the financial management to recover its price.” It was purchased from the Greek Orthodox Press in Jerusalem, and thus the Voice of the People is the first institution to introduce printing to the city of Bethlehem. Yehoshua, one of the historians of the Arab press in Palestine: “The first issue of Sawt al-Shaab was issued (with a great fanfare), the like of which I did not see in the Arab newspapers that were issued after the First World War”.

The People’s Voice adhered to a resounding national approach, as it gained unparalleled popularity, and built for itself a lofty political influence, which was adopted by the largest political bodies in the country. It follows: “If you want to know the secret of this success and popularity, it is the extraordinary audacity to speak, declare and defend the truth with firm faith and defiance of the British authorities without being able to find a legal hold on it”. It continued to be published until 1939, when it stopped, and then returned to publication in 1947, and continued until the end of the Mandate.

The Voice of the People opened its heart to all the national and progressive forces in the country, especially in 1938 when the progressive student movement was established in Jerusalem. This movement was known at first as the Arab Students Association and then the Arab Students Association. Al-Ghad magazine, the mouthpiece of this association, wrote in May 1938 what Following: (We started our project… with monthly supplements donated to us by the right to issue them, Mr. Issa Al-Bandak. We extend our thanks and gratitude to him because he was the first to take our hand in starting our project, for which circumstances allowed him to take his next step by issuing tomorrow..)

The deceased also played a leading role in the Bethlehemite Youth Club, which was established in 1927, which was an extension of the Literary Club. This club was headed from 1927 to 1929 by Khalil Issa Maraq, who was one of the dearest friends of the deceased, the monastery of the Voice of the People, the Secretary of the Committee for Defending the Rights of Immigrants, and a prominent national figure. But he immigrated to America in August 1929, then the deceased was elected president of this club.

The club carried out political, literary, and artistic activities and hosted international personalities in the honoring ceremony held by the friend of the Arabs, Charles Crane from the above-mentioned King-Crane Committee, which was attended by politicians and intellectuals in Palestine. Among them are Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Fikri al-Nashashibi, Suleiman al-Taji al-Faruqi, Awni Abd al-Hadi, Khalil al-Sakakini and Paul Shehadeh. The club also held a party in honor of the Arab friend, Major Canning, a member of the British Parliament. Among the attendees were Mufti Musa Kazem Al-Husseini and a distinguished group of Palestinian personalities.

The role he played in the orthodox national movement

 We have seen that the deceased was born and raised in an Orthodox house, and his father, Father Basil, embodies the aspirations of the Arab Orthodox in recovering their rights stolen by the Patriarchate and the Synod – the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher. The Arab Orthodox Priests Conference, which was chaired by Father Elias Kanawati, so it was natural for the boy to be influenced by his father and his environment at a time when the path of the Orthodox national cause was pouring into the liberation movement in Palestine.

It is not strange, then, that Orthodox figures such as Issa al-Bandak, Khalil Qazakia, Issa al-Issa, Yaqoub Farraj, Paul Shehadeh, Mughnim Maghnem, and dozens of their ilk became poles of the national movement in Palestine. It was not surprising when the Arab Executive Committee of the Sixth Palestinian Conference – the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – sent Issa Al-Bandak represented it to the sessions of the First Arab Orthodox Conference held in Haifa between 15 and 20 July 1923 to express the solidarity of the Palestinian people with their Arab Orthodox brothers.

The efforts of (Abu Yousef) and the efforts of the Orthodox Society in Bethlehem culminated in a glorious historical incident that occurred in Bethlehem in 1946 when the deceased was the mayor of Bethlehem and the head of the Society. This incident began when the association decided to retrieve the cemetery of the fathers and grandfathers from the patriarchate’s control (the association’s building is now located in the hotel (Palace) in front of Manger Square). In order to contribute to the achievement of that miracle, and as long as six o’clock in the morning, there was a room equipped with doors and windows, and electric lights shone from its air, so the process took place within nine hours with regularity and accuracy.

The late told me that the Society tried to persuade the Patriarch in various ways to agree to return this cemetery to the sect, but no avail. He told me in a letter I received from him in the summer of 1981:

“Finally, I consulted my late friend, the first judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, the late Ali Jarallah, to refer us to the strongest legal means to recover the right of the sect, and after he learned that the Patriarchate does not have any document that legally authorizes it to own the cemetery, just as the association also had no document other than the graves of fathers and grandfathers. He pointed out to us that if we could build any kind of building, even if it was a wall, the Patriarchate would have to prosecute the Assembly, even if the Assembly requested during the trial that the Patriarchate produce any document proving its claim to the ownership of the cemetery. Indeed, this is what happened and the tombs returned to their rightful owners, and in the early fifties, the building that we see now crouched in front of Manger Square was built with the financial support of the Bethlehemite expatriates in Latin America. I especially mention the late Hanin Abu Jarour, a brilliant economist in the Republic of Chile.

The role he played on the political stage:

The personality of Issa al-Bandak has emerged on the political stage since 1918 when he became the representative of the Bethlehem district in the Islamic-Christian committee that appeared in Jerusalem in late 1918 as the nucleus of the Palestinian national movement, and as a reaction to the intense Zionist activity. In January and February of 1919, it adopted the All-Palestine Conference to express its support for the unity of the Levant, and its rejection of the Balfour Declaration and the division of the country. The late told me the following information about his experience in this committee:  I do not dare to express an opinion in front of a body composed of sheikhs with beards and turbans, and I have become a kind of feeling of inferiority … And I decided in front of myself to revolt against the characteristic of shyness that was accompanying me and decided to break into the field for discussion and speech, and I remember that the first time I spoke boldly to a young man who was provoked by factors A psychiatrist was in the process of preparing a large demonstration roaming the streets of Jerusalem, with the condition that the demonstration is silent. They rumbled my explosive voice that silence is cowardice and that I will not be bound by a decision and that I will speak in Bab Al-Khalil Square. From the balcony of the office of the late lawyer Fakhri Al-Husseini, brother of the Mufti…” During that march during which bloody clashes erupted between Arabs and Zionist Jews in early April 1920, Musa Kazem Al-Husseini appeared from the municipal balcony and addressed the demonstrators, which caused him to be removed from the municipality and to replace e Ragheb Nashashibi.

This was the political breakthrough of the deceased, which led to the emergence of his personality on the political stage in Palestine so that between 1920 and 1934 he became an active member of the Arab Executive Committee emanating from the Palestinian conferences, which was headed by Musa Kazem Al-Husseini, father of the martyr Abdul Qadir Al-Husseini. 1929-1930 to circumambulate with the late Amir Adil Arslan in the Americas, to promote the cause of the Arabs of Palestine, and why the Executive Committee does not send him, who is a skilled orator who is fluent in six languages: Arabic, Turkish, Greek, French, English and Spanish, and a historian of the Palestinian political theater after the death of Musa Kazem al-Husseini, who sees the dangerous divisions The foundations of which were laid in the twenties as a result of the conflict between Mufti Hajj Amin and his supporters, Ragheb al-Nashshibi and his supporters, and the attempt by each of the two parties to dominate the march of the national movement.

In June 1935, several personalities, mostly mayors, including the mayors of Jerusalem, Gaza, Acre, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Beit Jala met to establish a new party called the Reform Party. It included the executive body of the party (or 1934), Mahmoud Abu Khadra and Shibli al-Jamal, and the Voice of the People  became the language of this party.Those who examine the history of the emergence of this party see the attempt to emerge of the mayors as an alternative political force to the two traditional camps, i.e. the Mufti supporters camp and the opposition camp of the Defense Party and Ragheb al-Nashashibi supporters, although the program proposed by the party did not differ radically from the programs put forward by other national parties.

However, the party did not last long, as it merged with the rest of the main parties in the Arab Higher Committee on the eve of the outbreak of the great Palestinian uprising in 1936, and the deceased played a leading role in that year when the National Committee was formed to supervise the six-month strike in Bethlehem.

One of the committee’s tasks, like the tasks of other committees throughout Palestine, was to keep pace with the continuity of this comprehensive strike and to raise funds for the afflicted, workers, and those affected by this strike, which was aborted as a result of the intervention of Arab kings and presidents on behalf of Britain. But the deceased’s political activity and his press campaign against Britain and its policy eventually led to his arrest in June 1938, and he stayed in the Mazraa prison near Acre for two months, and then was expelled from the country and went to Greece to occupy its press with the issue of the Arabs of Palestine, which led to the protest of the British ambassador to the Greek Foreign Ministry, which instructed In turn, for the deceased to leave the country, and during this period he contacted the former Khedive of Egypt, Abbas Helmy II, who was deposed by the British from the throne of Egypt in 1914 and became his secretary.

Finally, the British authorities allowed him to return home in the early forties. In the municipal elections of 1946, like the elections of 1934, he was chosen by the Bethlehemite masses with the majority of votes, and he remained in this position until April 20, 1951, when he was appointed ambassador at large to Jordan.

The role he played in the 1948 War

As a result of the successive Arab defeats in the Palestine War in 1948, the late leader led the idea of ​​internationalizing the Jerusalem region. A bullet from above the arch of the cradle in defense of the internationalization project, and I would like to tell you that the Consul of France and the representative of the Papal See have given up their support for the project, so you must decide what you want.” And then the meeting decided to abandon the idea in 1950.

On the role of the late Abu Youssef in the early days of the Nakba of 1948, Ahmed Lutfi and confirmed the former general secretary of the Central Committee of the Unionist Party in Egypt and the administrative governor of the Bethlehem region when the Egyptian forces entered the area in May 1948, in the Beiruti magazine Al-Safir (November 7, 1984) the following:

Issa Al-Bandak was known as the mayor of Bethlehem and the head of the National Committee in its area, which is a wide area that extends from south of Jerusalem to Hebron, and it is the enclave that was besieged from every side, and the responsibility for protecting it rested with the members of the Egyptian force alone. Despite the dangers threatening this enclave, Bethlehem-Hebron, none of the residents of the area tried to escape. Issa al-Bandak told me, and I was assuming the position of administrative governor of the region: “Not a single Palestinian will leave here… We will stay here or die here…” We worked together, the Palestinians and the Egyptian army, and we had two tasks before us: protecting the enclave Bethlehem-Hebron and supplying the force The besieged in Iraq al-Manshiyya and Fallujah.. and the siege was lifted from the power of Abdel Nasser in Iraq al-Manshiyya, and here too, and for now I do not know how Issa al-Bandak managed a lot of support in preparing convoys that transported equipment, supplies, and medicines through the night to the Fallujah sector, and the Bethlehem municipality became one of the leader’s Operations to break the siege and Fallujah withstood, and when the Egyptian army came out with dignity.

 Virtues of the deceased, 1950-1957

After the unity of the two banks, he worked in the Jordanian diplomatic corps, and Jordan delegated him with Professor Ahmed Toukan in 1950 to go to the United Nations to strive for Jordan to become a member of that organization. The issue of the internationalization of Jerusalem and the question of Palestine, and in the same year he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary of Jordan in Spain, where he remained in this position until 1954. The Bethlehemite Manager magazine described this mission of the deceased in 1954 as follows:

He was there as if (the mayor of Madrid) or the manager of (the guest house in it) or as if he was the heir of the Arabs of Andalusia, the owners of the lost paradise … and no Arab went through it. Spain, but Jesus stood beside him and cut the way in front of him, to add and honor him in his house – as he used to host people in his capital, a dead house – then he took that Arab visitor to Granada, Cordoba and Toledo, to show him the heritage of his fathers and grandfathers. The Republic of Chile, and he held this position until 1957, and in the Chilean capital, the Jordanian legation was teeming with politicians and diplomats who were invited to parties and banquets in the morning and evening, taking advantage of these occasions, to raise the status of the Arabs and win new friends for their first cause, the owner of the Oltma Ora newspaper stated in Santiago told a member of the Bethlehem delegation that was touring Chile in 1955, that Professor Al Bandek was the only one. The Arab minister was able to address politicians and the press in the language they understand, and that he was the first Arab minister who was well-informed in his journey and appreciated and valued his views and his position.

From 1957, the year he retired from the diplomatic corps, until the day of his death in May 1984, the late was a defender of Arab causes, and fates decreed that (Abu Youssef) die far from the homeland.


He wrote in Al-Kashf Al-Bethalhemiya magazine (third year, issue 24.25/June-July 1937) saying:

“I do not know that I have loved anything in this world, as much as I love Bethlehem, my dear hometown, nor do I know that I have been fascinated by natural landscapes, nor am I fascinated by the views of Bethlehem, nor do I know that I have seen a sky clearer than its sky, nor a sun more radiant than its sun, nor a moon more beautiful in formation Than its moon, and no stars brighter than its stars, and there is no fragrance more saturated than its fragrance and perfume!!

I had the luck to travel to the United States and Mexico and most of the capitals of Europe and its suburbs and parks, but I do not remember seeing more than the beauty of Bethlehem and the spiritual joy in its atmosphere. And what reeling in my sense of ecstasy and rapture….

I remember that I stood in the year 1930 at Niagara Falls, where the beauty of nature is manifested, and where the sparkling waters sing the anthem of eternity, and where a tower of bright, laughing colors is arranged, settled in an area of ​​the air confined by sight. The water-wheel that girls and women in Bethlehem return to take what they need, their faces overflowing with natural beauty, meek joy, and an activity in which they adorn themselves with temptation, purity, and contentment!

Bethlehem is great with its religious and historical heritage, rich in grave events, and it is sufficient for it to be the cradle of Christ and to be the home of kings and greats. Feelings and nerves and make me ransom everything for the sake of Bethlehem, and makes me belittle everything without Bethlehem, and makes me believe that everything in the world is not equal to the smallest spot of Bethlehem! And if I ask myself what is this psychological factor, and what is its secret, I cannot find in speech a definition of it, and I do not wish to stop at words that refer to its definition or to formulate from a speech a meaning that is beyond the reach of words, beyond the reach of rhetoric, and even beyond the reach of verbal genius. It is an inspiration in itself, and inspiration has no definition, and the greatest pleasure for the soul is that words do not have the power to define what is in them of secrets and revelations!!

I look at every person from the sons of Bethlehem, male or female, young or old, who is the master of the world if I feel that he stands by his efforts to serve Bethlehem and raise its status and raise its flag high and high! I feel tears of joy flowing from my stomach when I witness a party of any kind held by the people of Bethlehem or an association founded by the people of Bethlehem, whose hearts are free of impurities and whose souls are beyond absurdity and nonsense. I consider this association or that club above the impact and influence of the League of Nations What every association other than the exploit and reputation!

I look at every person from the sons of Bethlehem, male or female, young or old, young or old. He is the master of the world if I feel that he is standing up for his efforts to serve Bethlehem and raise its status and raise its flag high and high! And I feel tears of joy flowing from my ears when I witness a party of any kind hosted by the people of Bethlehem or an association established by the people of Bethlehem, whose hearts are free of impurities and whose souls are beyond absurdity and nonsense. I consider this association or that club above that of the League of Nations. Influence and influence and above what every association other than the exploit and reputation!

I would like to be a shadow of every Bethlehem resident who works out of love for her, fascinated by her name, in love with her whims, and I consider every person of this kinda master of the world and a great of the greats of history!

I call upon those whose Bethlehemite sisters and my Bethlehemian brothers who have a delicate sense of my word settle in themselves to ignore himself for the sake of Bethlehem, and stand his talents at her service, and intend to perish his personality in her personality, as she is worthy of all this, and she is ancient in sanctification and worship. I love Bethlehem and the holiest of Bethlehem is close to worship, which in my view is above all. I hope that all the sons and daughters of Bethlehem will include this love and make it a constitution for their lives, a provision for their souls and a stimulus for their feelings, and long live Bethlehem above all.

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