Stephan Hanna Stephan was born in 1894 in the town of Beit Jala, abutting Bethlehem, to a Syriac Orthodox family, and was educated at the German Lutheran-run Schneller School (the Syrian Orphanage), one of the most significant sites of German soft power in Palestine.Footnote 35 The Syriac Orthodox formed a small community which was uncomfortably combined with the larger Armenian church under Ottoman rule and was thus doubly marginal, relative to the richer and more numerous Greek Orthodox and other denominations.Footnote 36 He joined the British Mandate administration as a general civil servant, starting at the Treasury, but some of his earliest published writings (from 1921/22) show his existing interest in the culture and history of Palestine from a perspective which means that he is often included in the notional “Canaan circle” of nativist ethnographers who “challenged a colonial British version of Palestinian history that saw Arabs in Palestine as transient and ephemeral”.Footnote 37
In works such as his translations of the Palestine sections of Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname,Footnote 38 his “Modern Palestinian Parallels to the Song of Songs”,Footnote 39 and several guidebooks for English-speaking visitors during World War II, Stephan asserted a strong and distinctive Palestinian culture which can be seen as a kind of subaltern cultural diplomacy, using historical, cultural and religious themes both to assert Palestinian legitimacy against Zionism claims, and to suggest commonalities between Palestinian Christians and their European and American co-religionists.Footnote 40 In Stephan’s portrayal, Palestinian culture had several defining features, including roots in a rich and diverse blend of cultures, and the presence within its contemporary manifestation of instances of modernity which refuted Zionist claims to have brought civilisation to the Arab population of Palestine. His mid-1930s publication of Arabic manuals and phrasebooks for English- and German-speaking learners also fits into the general idea of the Arabic language as a unifying factor among Muslim and Christian Arabs.Footnote 41 He intervened in debates in Arabic-speaking intellectual and educational circles, delivering talks on the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic radio on Palestinian history and folklore,Footnote 42 commenting on the rights of women in Arab societies for the Nahda journal Sarkis,Footnote 43 and contributing articles and letters on Palestinian history and culture to the pages of Arabic newspapers published in Cairo and Jerusalem.Footnote 44
At the Department of Antiquities and later the Palestine Archaeological Museum Stephan was largely based in the library, first on secondment from the general civil service pool, and in later years as a full member of the department.Footnote 45 Without a formal university education he seems never to have been considered eligible for the librarian’s position, but was an assistant. Despite this, he appears to have built up a considerable reputation in the region, authoring a bibliographic work for a series at the American University of Beirut and becoming known in Jerusalem’s scholarly circles for his linguistic prowess.Footnote 46 The Department of Antiquities recognised the value of Stephan’s translations, mainly of Ottoman Turkish texts, and paid him extra for carrying them out.Footnote 47 By the end of the Mandate period and in the immediate aftermath of the Nakba (when Stephan, his wife and their two sons became refugees in Lebanon), Stephan was travelling repeatedly to Cyprus to work on Arabic inscriptions there, and regularly took his children with him.Footnote 48
Stephan never expressed overt political or religious opinions, unlike his counterpart at the Palestine Oriental Society, Tawfiq Canaan, who caused something of an uproar with his outspoken pamphlets at the beginning of the Palestinian Uprising in 1936.Footnote 49 As a public employee, open political statements were forbidden.Footnote 50 However, some of his writings suggest a sense of both Palestinian and Christian identity, to the extent of implicitly expressing a vision of the Palestinian future. In his translation and annotations to Evliya Çelebi’s Seyahatname, there is a strong sense of the existence of a distinctly Palestinian selfhood: this encompasses Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths and urban and rural ways of life, and is seen as vibrant, deeply rooted in myth and scripture, prosperous and cultured.Footnote 51
His three tourist guidebooks, co-authored with photographer Boulus ‘Afif, published during WWII and explicitly aimed at British and Commonwealth soldiers on leave in Palestine, present a similar image of a mixed and inclusive society (describing, for example, new Jewish towns as well as the older sites one might expect), but with a particularly Christian edge.Footnote 52 Only when dealing with Christian sites do they shift tone from businesslike guidance to deep reverence.Footnote 53 It may be that, in stressing their Christian identities and the New Testament connections of Palestine, Stephan and Boulus sought to appeal to British Christian servicemen as part of the ongoing competition with Zionist writers to lay claim to Palestinian land and history. The depth of Stephan’s personal religious convictions is impossible to know, but the guidebook suggests that he possessed enough of a Christian identity to feel comfortable operationalising it in order to propose a common ground between himself and his readers. The appearance of an overt strand of Christian identification in Stephan’s writings in the 1940s, absent in earlier works, also accords with Noah Haiduc-Dale’s observation that Christians in the early years of the Mandate had seen and shown themselves not as a minority, because they were part of the Arab majority, but that in the later period Christian minorityhood was asserted as a way of critiquing British policy.Footnote 54 This also chimes with the fact that Stephan’s writings for Arabic-language papers in the 1940s included entries in specifically Christian publications such as al-Minbar, whereas his earlier articles and letters had appeared in journals which emphasised a common Arab culture.
Na’im Makhouly’s work at the Department of Antiquities was of a very different nature. Unlike Stephan’s role in the library, dealing with books and manuscripts and translating documents, Makhouly’s entailed travel from his headquarters in Acre and later Nazareth across the whole northern region of Palestine, to cities including Nablus, Jenin, Tabariyyeh, Akka and Haifa, and to towns and villages along the border with Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast. With a more limited range of publications, and fewer encounters with international scholars and other readers and audiences, his opportunities—and, the evidence seems to suggest, his desire—to exercise a kind of antiquities-based cultural diplomacy were much more limited than Stephan’s. Makhouly’s example thus highlights the variation in Christian Palestinian responses to, and use of, cultural diplomacy as a feature of their relations with the Mandate authorities.
Born in the town of Kufr Yasif, north of Akka, in 1898, Makhouly came from an Orthodox Christian family and, after primary education in Kufr Yasif (later dubbed by veteran Palestinian journalist Atallah Mansour “the most academic Arab town in Israel”Footnote 55), went to the school in the Russian compound in Nazareth.Footnote 56 He then seems to have acquired training at the newly formed British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, which in the early years of the Mandate was run in tandem with the Department of Antiquities by John Garstang. Makhouly does not appear in the formal lists of students of the School,Footnote 57 but neither do other Arab students and later employees of the Department who are believed to have studied there. The logical conclusion seems to be that the “official” lists are of students of archaeology from British universities who came for fieldwork, but that the School also served as an instruction centre for the Department of Antiquities, and that Makhouly was the first of these unregistered trainees.Footnote 58
Makhouly was employed in April 1922 as an Assistant Inspector of Antiquities for the northern region of Palestine, based initially in Acre and from 1939 in Nazareth.Footnote 59 His job, as revealed by the Department of Antiquities files, was varied and involved much travel. Archaeological tasks included inspecting buildings and sites to see if they warranted protection and further investigation by the department, often under pressure if remains had been uncovered during construction or farming and the owners of the land needed to get on with their work. Frequently these inspections were brief affairs, resulting in a case folder containing one or two pro formas and a photograph or sketch plan of the site. Sometimes, however, they were major and protracted projects, as at Tell al-Hawwam near Haifa, which became a full-scale excavation and also embroiled Makhouly in a legal case against people accused of illegally digging for antiquities and disturbing the archaeological site. The accused, in their turn, pointed to the Shell Oil Company, whose refinery site (now Oil Refineries Ltd) occupied the adjacent plot.Footnote 60 Conflict over archaeological finds and sites could at times turn nasty: guards and attendants at all protected sites—not just at the Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem—had powers of arrest, and Makhouly himself had received threats in the course of his work.Footnote 61
The conventional viewpoint on such cases is that the staff of the Department of Antiquities were preserving archaeological heritage, conceptualised as a kind of universal property. Nadia Abu El-Haj, however, stresses the extent to which ideas of archaeological protection, instituted in the Ottoman period and continued by the British, represented new claims to ownership which dislocated people from the parts of their surroundings which were labelled antique.Footnote 62 The latter, in turn, focused on the Judaeo-Christian past and saw Islamic heritage, particularly that from the more recent Ottoman period, as less worthy of protection. Makhouly’s own duties certainly involved interfering in the affairs of people who seem to have been accustomed to exploiting tells and ruins for earth, fertiliser and building stone, and who, with the imposition first of Ottoman antiquities laws and later the British regimen, were encountering a new set of rules governing interactions with their surroundings.Footnote 63
Where finds proved of sufficient interest, Makhouly or one of his colleagues might also write them up for the Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine, the administration’s academic journal.Footnote 64 Compared to his colleagues, though, Makhouly does not give the impression of being a keen writer, with markedly fewer publications than those of similar rank in the department, whether of Arab, Jewish or European origins. Those articles he did publish tend to be short and, like that on Jish, include long finds lists rather than descriptive or analytic text. One senses an archaeologist whose strength lay in the field and in the logistics and personal relations necessary to conserve the remains on his turf, rather than an academic who wanted to write long articles. One tendency of both Makhouly and Stephan’s articles for QDAP is, however, striking. Among American and British excavators, including Makhouly and Stephan’s contemporaries (such as DAP chief inspector in the 1920s P. L. O. Guy and the famous US archaeologist William Foxwell Albright, who headed the American School of Archaeology in Jerusalem during periods 1922–1929 and 1933–1936Footnote 65) there is an almost fanatical obsession with identifying the Biblical antecedents of archaeological sites. But neither of these Christian Palestinians, or their other Palestinian colleagues, adopted such a narrative. Na’im Makhouly’s writings are scholastically dry and scientific in tone, eschewing any kind of opinion or personal comment, while Stephan’s approach to the Palestinian past is very much in line with the “Canaan circle” notion of a diverse, blended history creating a richly patterned present.
Makhouly’s best-known and most widely cited publication, his Guide to Akka, is no exception.Footnote 66 This was one of a series of guidebooks to Palestinian cities published by the Department of Antiquities which also included Bethlehem (by R. W. Hamilton), Megiddo (Shipton), Citadel of Jerusalem (C. N. Johns), Beisan (Ben-Dor) and Sebastieh (Hamilton).Footnote 67 The Guide represents a useful point of comparison between Stephan and Makhouly’s works. Stephan’s writings display an underlying, or sometimes overt, sense of Palestinian identity and nationhood, and he published in Arabic, German and English in a range of journal and books which carried his ideas to diverse audiences. Makhouly, by contrast, seems only to have written for publication by his employers. The Guide to Acre, while undoubtedly a “local”Footnote 68 voice in some respects, often adopts a Eurocentric perspective. Of the 65-page historical introduction to the city, 20 pages deal with the Crusader period, while the “Mamluke and Early Turkish” section which follows is only two pages long, despite stretching from the late thirteenth-century to the eighteenth-century rebuilding of Akka under Daher al-ʿOmar.Footnote 69 The conquest of Acre by the Mamluks is termed its “fall”, suggesting a Crusader rather than Egyptian viewpoint, and there are substantial quotations from medieval Christian writers of European origin, while excerpts from Arabic, Turkish and generally Muslim documents are confined to some paragraphs from the famous Andalusi traveller Ibn Jubayr.Footnote 70
It may be that the very conventional language and narrative of the Guide derives from its status as a quasi-official publication, whereas Stephan’s books were independently printed and his articles appeared in journals with a much smaller, and more academic, focus. The role of Makhouly’s superior in the Department, field archaeologist C. N. Johns, may also play a part: the first edition of the Guide carries a preface by the Department’s director, R. W. Hamilton, calling it “chiefly the work of Mr. Na’im Makhouly”, but “assisted in its preparation” by Johns, who is said to have contributed “parts of the historical section” and “revised the whole work”.Footnote 71 One envisages Makhouly doing the leg-work, hunting around the Old City of Akka for sites and noting their locations and descriptions, while a second contributor adds historical narrative and fine-tunes the manuscript. By contrast, the closest analogue among Stephan’s works—the Evliya translations, several of which were published with annotations by Department Librarian Leo A. Mayer—still maintains an aura of independence lacking in Makhouly’s Guide.
Alongside carrying out actual archaeology, Makhouly had to play bureaucrat, logistics manager, construction overseer and writer. His job entailed liaising between different government departments, some of them with conflicting interests: at Acre (Akka), for instance, the city and sea walls were protected archaeological sites but also—especially the latter– vital parts of the town’s infrastructure.Footnote 72 Repairs to Akka’s architectural heritage, combined with the Mandate administration’s financial pressures, thus entailed convoluted arrangements and sometimes tetchy exchanges of notes on subjects such as which department had prior claim on supplies of building stone.Footnote 73 When temporary local staff, such as surveyors, labourers and guards, had to be hired for ad hoc excavations, it was Na’im Makhouly who had to source them and negotiate rates of pay with the Jerusalem office; he might also be called upon to take photographs for visiting archaeologists, bring along a spade and measuring equipment if a senior colleague was visiting to inspect a site, or make recommendations to other government offices on whether land could be leased to farmers or used by a school as a playground or by the notorious Akka prison as a “criminal lunatics’ exercise yard”.Footnote 74 Here there was little or no scope for articulating a particular identity; sites were examined whenever the Department was alerted to their discovery, and Makhouly’s role in interpreting and extrapolating from larger excavations was limited.