Khoury, Makram (1945–)

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Khoury, Makram

Makram Jamil Khoury (Khuri, Khouri) is one of the most accomplished and best-known Israeli Palestinian actors, with numerous dramatic and film roles in Arabic, Hebrew, and English in Israel, the Palestinian territories, and internationally to his credit.


Khoury was born in 1945 in the al-Shaykh Jarrah section of Jerusalem to a Palestinian Greek Orthodox family. His father, Jamil, was a judge, and his mother was a teacher. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War caused Khoury's family to flee the fighting in Palestine. They ended up in a refugee camp in Lebanon, but five months later they surreptitiously managed to cross the border back into their homeland, which by then was the new State of Israel. The family took up residence in the port city of Acre (Hebrew: Akko; Arabic: Akka) near Haifa, the major city in northern Israel. Educated there and in the nearby village of Kufr Yasif, Khoury finished high school in 1963. He then entered the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but soon dropped out to become an actor.

Khoury trained in Israel and, from 1970, England, where he studied for three years at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London before returning to Israel in 1973. He then became involved with the Carmeri Theater in Tel Aviv and the Haifa Municipal Theater, remaining a member of the latter for twenty years. Khoury performed largely in Hebrew, given the lack of Arabic-language theater in Israel, where Palestinians are a minority. He also has performed roles in English as well as his native Arabic. Since 1995, he has been a freelance actor. And since 1979, he has performed in films as well as theater.

Khoury continues to act in plays throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories, and has taught acting in Ramallah, in the West Bank. His eldest daughter, Clara Khoury (1976–), is a rising actress in Israel, having recently appeared in two films that garnered international attention, Rana's Wedding (2002) and The Syrian Bride (2004). In the latter, she played the daughter of the character played by Makram. Her brother Jamil is also an actor.


Khoury's status as a Palestinian citizen of Israel has affected him personally and professionally. Completely fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew, Khoury often speaks of living in two worlds. In Israel (he lives in Haifa), he is part of the Palestinian Arab minority that lives awkwardly within the Jewish state. Yet in Ramallah, in the West Bank, where he also has a house, he feels different from the Palestinians who live around him in the territories. His theatrical and film experiences have been similarly schizophrenic, and he has portrayed both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. In one case, these different identities all came together in the role he played in Wedding in Galilee. In that film, he portrayed an Arabic-speaking Israeli Jewish army officer who originally came from Syria and who became the military governor ruling over Palestinians in the Galilee region of Israel.

Since becoming an actor, Khoury has performed in over 107 plays in all the major theaters in Israel, and has directed twelve plays. After years in the Hebrew theater, he became involved in the Arabic-language theater in Israel and the territories in 2003. He became director general for al-Midan, an Arabic-language theater in Haifa, for a short while, and later worked part time as artistic director for the Palestinian National Theater/Al Hakawati in East Jerusalem. In this capacity in 2005, he helped stage Jidariyya (The mural), a theatrical adaptation of the poem of that title by the renowned Palestinian poet mahmud darwish. He also played the lead role. The performance was staged in the territories before going on the road to Europe and Syria. In 2009, Khoury is scheduled to open in British director Peter Brook's production of Tierno Bokar at the Barbican Centre in London.

Khoury has also crossed over into television and film, appearing in over twenty-six films and television shows since the late 1970s. His first film was the Israeli production My Mother the General (1979). Fluent in Hebrew, in many of his film roles he has depicted Israeli Jews. One of the first times Khoury became known outside Israel was in the acclaimed 1988 film Wedding in Galilee, by Belgian-based Palestinian director Michel Khleifi, in which he played an Arabic-speaking Israeli military governor of Syrian Jewish ancestry. With the French film Les Patriots (1994), he began appearing in films outside Israel as well. Another international breakthrough occurred when Khoury had one of the leading roles in The Syrian Bride, a 2004 film by Israeli director Eran Riklis. The Syrian Bride was widely acclaimed internationally, winning several prizes and nominations, among them the Grand Prix (for Best Film) at the 2004 Montreeal World Film Festival. His most recent screen role has been in the Israeli film Forgiveness (2006), directed by Udi Aloni.


Name: Makram Khoury (Khuri, Khouri)

Birth: 1945, Jerusalem, mandatory Palestine

Family: Wife, Wadi'a; two daughters, Clara and Rula; one son, Jamil

Nationality: Palestinian citizen of Israel

Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1963, incomplete B.A. studies


  • 1970–1973: Theatrical studies in England
  • 1973: Joins Carmeli Theater, Tel Aviv and Haifa Municipal Theater
  • 1979: Appears in first film, My Mother the General
  • 1987: Awarded Israel Prize
  • 1988: Appears in Wedding in Galilee
  • 1994: Appears in Les Patriots
  • 2003: Appointed director general, al-Midan Theater, Haifa
  • 2004: Appears in The Syrian Bride and The West Wing
  • 2005: Appears in Munich and Free Zone


Khoury's skill as an actor is well known in Israel. In 1987 he became the youngest actor ever to receive the Israel Prize, the most prestigious award given by the State of Israel, for his contributions to the dramatic arts. Khoury also was the first Arab ever to receive the award. Internationally, his talent has led him to work alongside several major international film stars and directors in recent years. He acted in The Body (2001) with Antonio Banderas. In 2004, Khoury played the fictional Palestinian leader "Nizar Farad" in the blockbuster American television show The West Wing, starring Martin Sheen. The following year, he portrayed the assassinated Palestine Liberation Organization figure Wa'il Zu'yatir in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-nominated Munich. Khoury also appeared in Free Zone (2005) along with Israeli-American actress natalie portman.


Makram Khoury's major legacy has been that of a trailblazer for Palestinian stage and cinema actors, especially in the Palestinian Arab sector of Israel. With the rising screen talent of his daughter Clara already evident, and with his son Jamil following in his theatrical footsteps, Khoury may also well be remembered as the patriarch of a Palestinian acting dynasty.


Reigeluth, Stuart. "And in My Death I'm Living." al-Ahram Weekly Online (21-27 July 2005). Available from

                                        Michael R. Fischbach