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Naila Khalil’s article in Al Ayyam

Finally, Hanna Mikhail back in Ramallah

The Fateh activist who preferred the revolution to his Harvard University professorship… finally Hanna Mikhail in Ramallah.

Naila Khalil wrote:

(Al Ayyam Palestinian newspaper, Tuesday 18 May 2010)

The Ramallah born Hanna Mikhail returns to his homecity which he loved, but it is only a symbolic return through inaugurating a memorial board bringing to the Ramallah people, especially its youth, a glimpse about the life of the martyr who died in Lebanon 34 years ago.

Now, a street close to the rotary of the legislation council carries the name of (the martyr Hanna Mikhail “Abu Omar”) and on that board a few lines which introduce to the young generation one of the most important activist members of Fateh during the revolution period in Jordan and Lebanon.

Janet Mikhail, the mayor of Ramallah, considers the inauguration yesterday of the memorial board an expression of appreciation of his prominent role in serving the Palestinian cause, and offering the young generation of Palestinians a chance to get to know a man who never ceased to serve the Palestinian revolution, devoting his life to the cause of his people until the moment of his martyrdom.

In her turn, his wife Jehan Helou said “the carriers of the names of our streets are among the makers of our history and culture, they guard us and their eyes look at us every day, every hour, to see with eagerness where we have reached in the march of liberation and building the country?! Abu Omar’s eyes will be sad when they see us heading in minutes to the march of the sixty second anniversary of the catastrophe! But we rest assured, for it is he who taught us “the necessity of keeping the hope alive”!

Mikhail studied in the “friends” school in Ramallah, and his academic genius was a point of distinction at school, and at seventeen years of age he won a scholarship to study chemistry in the USA, and left Ramallah in 1952 and returned only once before the war of 1967.

The martyr Mikhail or Abu Omar, his organizational name by which he was known in the revolution, has a story that amazes all who hear it, a rare story about a successful academic who preferred to be a striver to being a doctor in the distinguished Harvard University.

Mikhail amazed the thinker Edward Saiid when he decided to leave his work in the biggest university in the USA and to join the Palestinian revolution, whereby he moved from an academic situation for which he was envied to working in the camps and organizing the revolutionaries in the most difficult circumstances of the Palestinian revolution.

Saiid wrote in the introduction of the PhD thesis for Mikhail which was titled “Politics and Revelation/ Al Mawardi and thereafter”: The main thing which reflects his greatness and generosity, his initiative to go to Amman in the first place, whereby he carries a PhD from Harvard and has a guaranteed academic position in the United States, he abandoned all this and replaced it with an unknown future, not to mention the dangers surrounding the place of volunteering in a popular movement not yet launched”.

He continued: I did not feel any hesitation on his part about his decision to return, he did not mention what he had left behind, and he always gave me the impression of a firm commitment of a man who had decided upon the course of his life according to the wonderful principles to liberate and enlighten his people from which he never deviated. From that time he remained a striver in Fateh.

In late July 1976 during the Lebanese civil war Mikhail disappeared along with nine members of the resistance, when they were going by sea in a rubber boat from Beirut to Tripoli in north Lebanon, and this was the last revolutionary mission he carried out, before the resistance and his family began looking for him over long years.

Mikhail married in 1972 the activist Jehan Helou, and while they were always busy, he in the revolution and she in her work in the general assembly for Palestinian women, they postponed all their dreams, among them having children, until the return to the country.

Al Helou still speaks with great admiration about Mikhail and says: All who knew him closely admired his great modesty, and his respect for women.

She comments: “ Although he was a Fateh member in Lebanon he refused to own a car, and he wore simple clothes, so my mother used to tell him: How will people know that you are a doctor from Harvard while you always wear the same suit.

She says: “He had a big role in media and in establishing the foreign relations for the Palestinian revolution and strengthening international solidarity with it, and he preferred popular work and establishing alertness among the youth as a foundation for liberating Palestine.

Today she works passionately to keep alive the memory of Abu Omar. She has a lot of plans and ambition, to launch an electronic site to introduce the Palestinian generations to him, in addition to establish an association which documents the history and stories of the intellectual revolutionary Palestinians.

The street of the martyr Hanna Mikhail is a few meters away from his house where his mother waited for so long, the mother Aziza Mikhail never stopped waiting for her son, in the hours of despair and they are many, she wrote poetry, which members of the family found later, and from it: “Don’t you know my son that your mother and father patiently wait for you… where did you go my son and left the very soul on fire…waiting for the beloved… is it not enough what bitterness I have tasted”.

In 2007 the mother was dying so she demanded that her son be declared a martyr in her funeral, the mother stopped waiting when she stopped living.


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