Emotions reached a climax when Yasser Arafat’s coffin was lowered into his grave, just a few hundred metres from where he had spent the gloomy last three years of his life. The president’s trademark keffieyh, or headscarf, hung over flowers. The tomb, made of concrete and marble, had been dug into the ground and extended above it.
Many in the crowd fired into the air, shouting and chanting. An imam appealed for calm and led a prayer. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat expressed his feelings: “President Arafat is lying in peace today, temporarily here in Ramallah. Eventually he will be moved to Jerusalem. My heart is broken because President Arafat is dead and the Israeli occupation is not.” Earth from the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem – Islam’s third holiest site – was sprinkled into the tomb. Arafat may now be symbolically united with the city he longed to see as the capital of an independent Palestinian state, but for Israel he remains an architect of terror and the government has flatly rejected the idea he may eventually be reburied in Jerusalem. Still, the tomb’s design will make it easy to transfer Arafat’s remains should there ever be an Israeli change of heart.