Feature: Yasser Arafat’s look-alike reminds Palestinians of late leaderSouce:Xinhua Publish By Thomas Whittle Updated 11/11/2012 4:01 pm in World / no comments
by Nida’ Ibrahim
RAMALLAH, Nov. 10 — Dressed in military uniform, Salim Smairat, a 59-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor in the West Bank city of Ramallah, walked out his dark house lacking of electricity and water, after carefully adjusting his black-white Keffiyeh, a symbol of the Palestinians’ historic leader Yasser Arafat.
Strolling down the West Bank streets, Smairat, who bears a great similarity to Arafat, shocked many tourists and local residents.
Since 2004, the year when Arafat died under mysterious circumstances, Salim has been appearing in the streets of West Bank cities as an Arafat look-alike.
He impersonates Arafat’s way of talking, greeting and his famous victory sign. “From my dark house I go out to people. I feel their love for Arafat through me. They respect me a lot,” Smairat told Xinhua.
The Palestinian vendor has become a famous figure. As he wanders around the streets in Ramallah, Smairat enjoys his new name “Abu Ammar,” a nickname of Arafat.
Smairat began to wear the Keffiyeh on Nov. 11, 2004, when Arafat died mysteriously in a military hospital near Paris in France without finding any evidence that he was poisoned.
“My two kids started shouting ‘Arafat, Arafat,’” he recalled. ” It took me a long time to learn how to adjust the Keffiyeh like Arafat.”
“Now I can adjust it even without a mirror,” he said proudly.
A Moroccan tourist, identifying himself as Amir, saw Salim for the first time near the Yasser Arafat square in downtown Ramallah and was shocked, “Did Arafat come from the grave? I asked myself.”
Many Palestinians consider Arafat an irreplaceable leader and yearn for his era in the face of current political deadlock and financial crisis.
As of now, Smairat has accepted about 100 invitations to attend festivities and graduation ceremonies as Yasser Arafat. However, he decided not to show up publicly as the Arafat look-alike on Sunday to mark the eighth-year-anniversary of Arafat’s death.
“I cry over Arafat because his death is a loss to all Palestinians and the Palestinian cause. He was a great man, and was the beloved father of the Palestinian and Arab people,” Smairat told Xinhua, adding that “I don’t want to salt their wounds.”
The anniversary comes amid new investigations to probe Arafat’s death. An autopsy is expected to be carried out soon after Swiss experts reportedly found high levels of polonium, a radioactive substance, in Arafat’s belongings.