PA holds 'state' funeral for poet Darwish in Ramallah

Thousands march behind casket, draped in Palestinian flag and covered with wreaths.

darwish 224.88 ap (photo credit: )
darwish 224.88 ap
(photo credit: )
Thousands of mourners on Wednesday attended the funeral of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who died earlier this week in Houston, Texas, following complications from open-heart surgery. Darwish was buried on a hilltop overlooking Jerusalem near the Ramallah Cultural Palace, where he read his last poem last month. Darwish's body was flown here from Amman's Marka Airport aboard a Jordanian military helicopter. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad accompanied the body from Jordan to Ramallah. Darwish's funeral was the first "state" funeral to be held here since the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004. Eight uniformed pall-bearers carried the coffin from the helicopter across the Mukata courtyard as a military band played. At a ceremony held in the Mukata presidential compound, PA President Mahmoud Abbas hailed Darwish as "one of the symbols of Palestinian steadfastness." Abbas, in his eulogy, said that the poet's death came as a "shock" to the Palestinians. Addressing Darwish, he added: "The story of our people is your story, and through our meeting it was made more beautiful. You shall remain with us, Mahmoud, because you represent everything that unites us." Abbas expressed hope that "the Palestinian flag he [Darwish] raised high with his poems will one day hover high over the minarets, churches and walls of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our Palestinian state." Hundreds of Israeli Arab citizens, including Darwish's family members who live in the Galilee, arrived in the city to attend the funeral. A number of Arab MKs also attended the funeral. MK Ahmed Tibi, who was a close friend of the poet, accompanied the body from Jordan aboard the military helicopter. Following the ceremony, Darwish's coffin, which was draped in a Palestinian flag, was placed on a Palestinian military vehicle which made the four-kilometer drive to the burial site. As the vehicle passed through the streets, hundreds of residents lined up to pay their respects to Darwish, who was nicknamed the Palestinian national poet. Portraits of Darwish and Palestinian flags filled the streets around the Mukata and the Cultural Palace, as did placards quoting his famous line, "There is much on this land worth living for."