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Palestinians Bury 'National Poet' Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinians have bidden an emotional farewell to a national and cultural icon. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Thousands of Palestinians attended an elaborate funeral for Mahmoud Darwish who was known as their "National Poet." Eight pall-bearers in military uniforms carried the casket, draped in a Palestinian flag, as a military band played solemnly on drums. It amounted to a "state funeral," the first in the West Bank since the legendary Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in 2004.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described Darwish as "the master of the word and wisdom, the symbol who expressed our national feeling, our human condition and our declaration of independence."

Darwish's poetry dealt with the themes of exile and the hope of return, both of which he experienced personally. His village was destroyed during Israel's War of Independence in 1948, and his family fled. He lived in exile in Cairo, Beirut, Tunis and Paris until returning to the West Bank in 1996.

Darwish was not optimistic when he died Saturday at the age of 67. His most famous line was: "There is much on this land worth living for." But he was disappointed by peace talks with Israel and Palestinian infighting, and he died without realizing his dream of an independent Palestinian state.