It is an event the Palestinians must have been bracing themselves for, but it does not come any easier for all that. The grief over Yasser Arafat’s death has been enormous, the volume of noise expressing it will rise as Sunday approaches. From in front of Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah to the surrounding streets crowds have gathered. The rivalries between the various factions are submerged for now in a show of unity, the only banners being waved are homages to Arafat and the Palestinian’s struggle.
In Jerusalem there is a particular atmosphere of tension. Friday prayers today will be a potential flashpoint and an occasion for the mosques to mark Arafat’s passing, and at the Damascus gate in the old city last night there were brief scuffles as youths and police clashed. Within the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem prayers have already been said for the Palestinian’s late leader, and people are keeping vigils at the same time as observing the climax to Ramadan. All through the occupied territories ther image of Arafat is everywhere, and in Gaza where the packed streets ring with his name feelings are running high. Many want him to buried in Jerusalem, as he wished, but that may not happen for some time. In case Israel relents he is being buried in a concrete box so he can be transferred later. Ramallah may be a fitting resting place as a symbol of resistance, but Palestinians would prefer Jerusalem as a symbol of homecoming.