The Pasha’s Mansion Refuses to Become a Theater
Old Haifa
absentee property
property theft
Cultural appropriation
Mustafa Pasha al-Khalil
Palestinian heritage

In this essay, originally written in Arabic, historian Johnny Mansour revisits the dilapidated remains of one of Haifa’s once preeminent buildings, located in what used to be the historical old city inside the Ottoman walls. After its original occupants were forced out and had their property confiscated during the Nakba, the mansion, built by Mustafa Pasha al-Khalil, was first occupied by new Jewish immigrants to the state of Israel. But the new occupants were driven out by the Israeli authorities’ deliberate neglect of their living conditions in a crumbling old structure. The Pasha’s mansion was then appropriated as a liberal Zionist artistic project that turned part of the building into a theater venue, which is now defunct. Through the prism of a flânerie in the city’s old Arab quarter, Mansour retraces the richness of old Palestinian Haifa. He surmises that nothing will be left of it in ten years if it is not salvaged from the historical amnesia induced by Zionist occupation.

Author biography: 
Johnny Mansour is a historian, researcher, and lecturer from Haifa. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including Historical Dictionary of Palestine (Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2022), Arab Christians in Israel: Facts, Figures and Trends (self-pub., 2012), and The Secret of Coexistence: Jews and Arabs in Haifa during the British Mandate in Palestine, 1920–1948 (Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2007), among many others. He is currently studying the internal displacement of Palestinians in the first decade after the Nakba.