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Mourning Mahmoud Darwish, the Son of all the Palestinians-


By Jack Khoury

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died on Saturday after heart surgery in Texas, came to see his mother before the operation. "He told me it was a dangerous procedure and I told him he shouldn‘t have it," she told Haaretz yesterday in her home in the village of Jadeida in the Western Galilee.

"I told him we should put our faith in Allah," the 85-year-old woman continued. "He decided to have the operation anyway, and now I‘ve lost my Mahmoud." Despite being bed-ridden, her anguish at her loss shows she is acutely aware of what happened.

Darwish, whose poetry his fellow Palestinians embraced as the voice of their suffering, was announced dead by a hospital spokeswoman in Houston. She said the 67-year-old poet died after an operation but did not specify the exact cause.

A picture of her beloved son hangs on the wall of the home of Darwish‘s mother. Her three daughters and some of her grandchildren cried upon seeing her look up at the portrait and speak of her son.

A friend of Darwish, Jawad Bulus, recalled a trip they had taken together during Darwish‘s last visit to Jadeida. They had traveled to Haifa and met there with a friend. Then they drove back to Ramallah, where Darwish lived. "We sat together until very late that night," Bulus said. "We both knew he was about to undergo a very complex surgery and that his heart was in critical condition. He likened his situation to carrying a small explosive charge in his heart, which could go off at any moment."

According to Bulus, the decision to go ahead with the procedure did not come easy to Darwish. He says the poet consulted with several doctors before he finally wrote to the hospital in Texas. The American authorities took their time before granting him a visa, Bulus complains.Three of Darwish‘s brothers live in Jadeida, the village adjacent to his hometown of Al-Birwa. Their houses are located at the village‘s eastern entrance, which has become the destination of hundreds of visitors who arrive to pay their respects to the family.

The visitors included colleagues, academics, acquaintances, former teachers and students, fans and those who had only heard of Darwish. They congregated at the entrance to the city‘s eastern square. A portrait of Darwish hung on one of the walls, under a Palestinian flag.

The obvious issue on many of the visitors‘ minds was where his body would be laid to rest. Early reports of his death in the Arabic press indicate that Darwish asked in his will to be buried in Palestine, but three locations were originally suggested: Al-Birwa, Jadeida and Ramallah. Ramallah Mayor Janet Mikhail later announced that Darwish is to be buried next to Ramallah‘s Palace of Culture, and a shrine is to be erected in his honor.

Darwish‘s mother and the rest of his family said they would have preferred for him to be buried in Jadeida. "I want him here, near me," his mother said. But then she added: "I realize, of course, that he is no longer just my son, but the son of the entire Palestinian people."




Jack Khoury