Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Remembering Dr. Hanna Kassis

This is what Dr. Kassis looked like when I met him in 1967. A seventeen-year-old from a small northern town, I was almost as fascinated by the crimp of my prof's hair and his foreign-accented speech as by his lectures and stories.

My residence buddy Rena recommended his class. I learned about the city from her, and she depended on me to keep pounding on her door till she rose for her 8:30 class. I was interested in archaeology, and she assured me I'd love Dr. Kassis's class. I did.

I learned eventually that Rena was Jewish; her mother had escaped from a death camp, and my friend kept putting off a promise to take me to her house for a visit because her mom was having another bad day.

Today the funeral of Dr. Kassis was held in the Anglican Cathedral on Burrard. I was surprised to learn he was a Christian. Back in 1967, I had only the sketchiest notion of the background of this Gaza-born Harvard-trained professor who went on to spend so many years teaching at UBC. A professor emeritus, he taught Hebrew language and Religious Studies as well as archaeology. He was a great member of the UBC and wider community, and will be sadly missed. An obituary by Douglas Todd in The Vancouver Sun calls him a "Canadian pioneer in Islamic Studies."

Rest in peace, Hanna Kassis.

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