My friend, Areej Ja'fari, a phenomenal community organizer at the Ibdaa Cultural Center in the Deheisha refugee camp, sent me this today, her thoughts on the loss of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish this week. Darwish is to be buried in Ramallah today. She agreed to let me share her words here:
As Palestinian I am living the shock of losing Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian Poet, he was our spokesperson for decades. I am sharing these feelings with you about this tragedy we are living now:
Mahmoud Darwish is not a passing traveler in Palestine
Singing for freedom has always been a part of national struggles throughout the world; but when you sang for freedom, you sang with words of love with your entire mind and with every drop of your blood ---and for your whole professional life.
You took the responsibility of documenting the moments of our lives and made them unforgettable, like a mural painted across the surface of the moon to be seen and remembered by all who love nature, and especially those who love the moon.
You spoke honestly about Palestinian history and what was happening to us on the ground as if we were watching a movie---informing our minds with beautifully and ingeniously written Arabic poems.
We read your words once, twice and maybe three times to understand the ideas that gave life to your words. We wanted to read your words again and again because we wanted to live the moments of your words, especially when you described our beautiful mother Palestine.
"So leave our land. Our shore, our sea. Our wheat, our salt, our wound. Take your portion of our blood and go away."
We love life as you loved it; we want to live in dignity---not under oppression. You did everything to oppose oppression and to show the world we are not human bombs walking in the streets killing Israelis, We are birds of love, peaceful farmers, lovers of Palestine and life-makers in the midst of domination.
When you wrote the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988, your words placed us within the sphere of diplomacy. You led the nations of the world to their first recognition of Palestinian rights, and you made us proud of who we are as refugees and Arabs. You have sown the seeds of the Palestinian Dream since you were uprooted from Al Berouah, and you spoke loudly of who we are when you wrote...
I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?
I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged . . .
Your death is not our end, nor will it ever be. Though it might be the end of your love story with your beloved "Falasten", you didn't take your words with you when you left; they remain with us forever to read again and again.
"My homeland is not a traveling bag,
Nor am I a passing traveler.
It is I who am the lover and the land is my beloved"
Your politics never mattered because you were always more than this; you were Palestinian. Your greatest disappointment was the oppression and bloodshed among brothers; and your final wish was to visit Gaza---the added wound to our already divided homeland.
You have seen us lose everything, but you kept hope in your words and in your heart, and you brought this same hope back into our hearts and lives. You made us, the Palestinian refugees, visible at the time when everybody had forgotten us. You remain the voice of the promised return of Palestinian refugees to their homelands. We will return, but we will return without you. Al Berouah and Al Jadeedah will always remember that you tried everything to be able to go back to them.
Mahmoud Darwish always called for peace, but never experienced this peace, even when he lived in France or in other countries outside of Palestine. He lived like a stranger even in his own country. I share this with him and with more than three million other Palestinians. Now he is at peace, but not in Palestine or on the Earth he loved so much. It is only we who will continue this call for peace and justice---the same as he did.
Palestine . . .
You spread onto my body like sweat
You spread into my body like desire
You take over my memory like an invader
And occupy my brain like light.
Die, that I may mourn you
Or be my wife that I may know betrayal
Once and for all."