DevMode
On the day that Emile Habiby died, it was hot as is usual at this time of the year. On the morrow, the day when his coffin was lowered into the grave, contrary to all the forecasts, it was cool and gray and a little rain fell. After the funeral, the spring weather returned. To put it briefly, one can understand from this what God had to say about the death of Emile Habiby.
There were many people who loved him at the funeral, but there also were many who, in recent years, had embittered his life, leaving him almost alone on the path to which he was one of the last to keep faith: the path of compromise founded on the fact that life is not just, that politics is not built on justice, and that two states will arise in this land, without barriers between them, with both peoples living in mutual contact and with undivided Jerusalem as the capital of both.
In life as in death, Emile was free, romantic, brave, but also imprisoned.
At one and the same time, he was winner of the Israel Prize and the Al-Quds Prize. For both he paid a price and he continued to adhere to both. He had a rare ability not to write stories, but to let them write themselves, letting his "optimism" describe himself simultaneously as coward and hero.
Emile was a communist because that was the way to be simultaneously an Israeli and a proud Arab. The USSR recognized Israel, the Arab world did not. What he thought within himself, he confided to the fish in the sea. After having seen Budapest and miserable East Berlin, I asked him: "How did you always say it was so great there?" He smiled. He had a childish and naive smile which tended to ridicule, and, at the end of every argument, he would pretend to be stupid so as to beat you with his bastardly Eastern wisdom.
His stories, apart from their fantastic Oriental beauty, combine the rich Arabic literary tradition with the realistic English literature which he loved. In his fable-like stories there is an un-fable like pain on the fate of his people and their hardships, wrapped in humor rather than with the whip of remonstration. Instead of being a prophet, he was the innocent who declares that "the emperor is naked." His technique was to present humanity in general through the individual. His stories are not slender, they weave together unashamed innocence, sobriety and the mystery of the connection between them. Emile Habiby was thoroughly familiar with the loneliness of the eternal stranger: he was born an Episcopalian, among Israeli Christians, among Israeli Arabs. Like a Russian doll, one doll within another, within another.
In 1947, he fought for the partition plan and was forced to hide in order to save his life. In recent years, too, his life was no festival replete with the love of mankind, as one might think from his funeral. When he finally resolved not to conceal the political truth, which he knew and had locked in his heart, he was thrown out of his place of work as editor of AI-Ittihad, left with no work and no friends.
No, Emile was not a moderate. He was extreme in his understanding of the tragedies inherent in the political truth - just or unjust, depending on which side was the observer - the truth of understanding the essential compromise. As an Arab, he knew that there are Jews here. As a person, he knew that the Jews must recognize his rights. He sat in his study in Haifa on what, in his youth, was called "The Sea Way," and which had been changed to "The Boulevard of Zionism." Did he weep? No, he laughed.
He was a realist, a dreamer, a believer and a skeptic. Unlike many writers who are characterized by a shallow brilliance, one understands his noble, painful and lonely depth in reading him, not in learned comparative research.
Emile Habiby, a declared atheist, was buried as a Christian. Contrary to the wishes of many people, but loyal to his own will, he was buried in the city which he loved, in Haifa, which is almost a joint Jewish-Arab city, where he lived his real life.
At once optimist and pessimist, a noble hero.

Extracts from an article in Yediot Ahronot.

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