Kister went to school in Sanok and Przemyśl. In 1932 he began studies in law at the University of Lvov, but in 1933 he moved to Warsaw, where he worked in a publishing house. In 1939 he emigrated to Palestine, where he studied Arabic in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, among others under David Hartwig Baneth and Shlomo Dov Goitein. In 1945–46 he worked as press secretary of the Polish embassy at Beirut. From 1946 to 1958 he taught Arabic at a school in Haifa.
At the same time he continued his studies, achieving an M.A. in 1949 and completed his Ph.D. in 1964. Since 1958 he taught at the Hebrew University, where he was active since 1964 as senior lecturer and from 1970 until his retirement in 1983 as professor. He is among the founders of the Arabic Departments in the universities of Tel Aviv and Haifa.
- "Prof. M. J. Kister's Biography". Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Retrieved Aug 29, 2016.
- Biography of Prof. M. J. Kister at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (in English)
- Tottoli, R. (2010). MEIR J. KISTER (1914-2010). Oriente Moderno, 90(2), 299-302 (in Italian)
- Website at Hebrew University of Jerusalem dedicated to Kister's work
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