Himika Akram reporter
Love tales arise as strands of optimism and connection in the fabric of human existence, connecting people over time and distance. Few love stories, however, capture the nuances of the human condition, and the eternal battle of self-determination, Mahmoud Darwish, and Rita’s. These two people, who were on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, became embroiled in a profoundly unorthodox love affair. Darwish’s poetry forever memorializes their love affair and highlights the transcending nature of love and longing despite political differences.
Mahmoud Darwish, a literary genius who is hailed as the national poet of Palestine, wrote of the hardships his people faced. His metaphorical and emotional poetry explored themes of displacement, self-discovery, and romantic devotion. His romance with an Israeli woman named Rita, whose identity Mahmoud revealed in a 2007 interview as an Israeli lady named Tamar Ben-Ami. They met in the early 1960s when Darwish was a student at the University of Haifa. Ben-Ami was a young Jewish woman from a wealthy family. They were drawn to each other despite their diverse backgrounds, and their love affair blossomed. Their love was an inspiring demonstration of how far it can go and how it can defy all odds.
Darwish captures the heart of their passionate relationship in his poem “Rita and the Rifle,” which is a lyrical story:
“I told her once, ‘You are the sword that wins.’ She responded, ‘You are the knife that escapes’”.
These words encapsulate the special bond shared by two people on opposing sides of a heated debate. Like the merging of a sword and a knife, it symbolizes the bringing together of the polarities, proving that romance could flourish despite the presence of antagonism.
Love, longing, and heartbreak were the common themes of his poetry. Darvish wrote-
“I love you despite the nose of my tribe, my city, and the chains of customs. But I’m afraid if I sell everyone, you will sell me, and I’ll return with disappointments.”
How powerful these words are! As we can assume, Rita and Darwish’s love affair was not like anything out of a Disney movie. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict constantly threatened their life and friendships. Because Drawish was such a prominent figure in the Palestinian Nationalist movement, on the other hand, he soon came to know that Rita was working for Mossad. Unfortunately, this love had to end tragically.
A heartbroken Darwish then wrote –
“I felt like my homeland was occupied again.”
After their relationship was over, Darwish continued authoring poems revolving around this failed relationship, as he wrote, “All roads lead to you, even those I took to forget you.”
He used Rita in his poems to symbolize the impossibility of any reconciliation and peace between Israel and Palestine. In 2021, a film called “Write Down, I am an Arab” was released, which tells the story of Darwish and Rita. Sometimes, the best things come out of rejections and heartbreaks. Otherwise, who else could have written such beautiful lines-
“We once said that only death would tear us apart. Death was late, and we split.”