Palestine’s youngest poet was killed in Gaza 200 days ago.


April 29, 2024, 2:12pm

Mohammad Abdulrahim Saleh, “the youngest poet to publish a collection in Palestine,” was killed by an Israeli airstrike on October 10. Born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in North Gaza, Saleh was one of the earliest casualties of the ongoing siege, and just twenty-one years old at the time of his death.

Less than eight months previous, members of the the Student Council of the Islamic University of Gaza and the General Authority for Youth and Culture gathered in the conference hall of the Faculty of Science building at the Islamic University to celebrate the publication of Saleh’s debut poetry collection, His Hand Fell. It must have been a joyous, and perhaps even overwhelming, occasion for the young poet—to have his work recognized and fêted at the university where he was still a student.

In the aftermath of Saleh’s death, Dr. Ayman Al-Atoum (who wrote the introduction to His Hand Fell) posted on Facebook:

“He had asked me a few months ago to write an introduction to his first poetry collection, so I wrote it with love and dignity. Today, Muhammad Saleh did not lose his hand, but rather rose as a martyr in Gaza. How narrow is the world and how wide is God’s mercy! … Our beautiful [Saleh] excelled in poetry, just as he excelled in the poetry of resistance, and I believe that the collection was built on these two wings.”

In a tribute to the slain poet and his work, Dr. Al-Hassan Abdul Latif Al-Lawi wrote:

“No matter how much we write about Muhammad Saleh’s poetry, writing will not bring him back to this world nor restore his home to what it was … May God have mercy on the Palestinian poet of Gaza, the young martyr Muhammad Abd al-Rahim Saleh.”

This beautiful video, posted by Quds News Network on the day of Saleh’s death, shows a smiling Saleh, sitting on a rooftop in Gaza, reciting a love poem:


The murdered poets and writers of Gaza live on in their work, in the (often painful) beauty of the stories and verse they left behind. No amount of bombs, bullets, or dehumanizing propaganda can ever erase the words they loosed into the world before they were so violently ripped from it. Mohammad Saleh was given so little time—to write, to bask in the glow of his first publication, to live—but he left behind a powerful testament, a piece of himself that cannot be killed, or silenced, or vanished into the abyss of “administrative detention.” By reading and sharing his poetry, we keep that small but essential piece of him alive. We keep him alive.

Over the past few months, through her wonderful translations, Huda Fakhreddine—a writer and associate professor of Arabic literature at Penn’s Middle East Center—has brought several poems by Heba Abu Nada (a beloved Palestinian writer and educator who was killed by an Israeli airstrike just ten days after Mohammad Saleh) to English-language readers. Those poems have now been recited at dozens, perhaps hundreds, of poetry readings, protest encampments, charity fundraisers, and literary salons across the country and around the world. Huda was also kind enough to translate the above video, in which Mohammad Saleh recites a love poem. In doing so, she brings Mohammad’s poetry to English-language readers for the very first time.

Dan Sheehan


This is clearly a poem written by a young poet, full of life and the joy language. I’m haunted by the video in which he sits on a rooftop against the sunset: his beautiful smile and the pride he takes in every turn of phrase, in his mastery of meter, in the rounding of rhyme at the end of each verse.

He speaks of love, stolen peeks, fires of desire, and dreams of kisses. He borrows the phrase “avert your gaze,” from the language of religion and customs. He challenges it, plays with it, overwhelms it with the folly of young love. This is the poetry of a young poet who should have lived.

I want to imagine Mohammad in his thirties, his fifties, his seventies, having written many other collections. I want to imagine him with the time and the luxury to experiment, to argue with other poets, to learn from them, to rebel against them. I want to imagine him, having read and written much more, looking back at this poem and that video, smiling his beautiful smile, and remembering all that love and all that revolution, in that moment, when he was young, and Palestine became free.

Huda Fakhreddine


She tripped in beauty (…)
by Mohammad Saleh


She tripped in beauty

and a shining splendor burned me.

And hers is a beauty that does what it may.


Averting my gaze did not quell my desire,

and her eyes gave me nothing to calm my worry,

no comfort, no cure.


On my life, I see no moon but her,

and when she passes no sun

dares shine.


I’m ill with love, stricken

with beauty, and there’s no cure

but her soft cheek.


She fell in beauty and a fire

in me raged. She did me in with a desire

no water can put it out.


My poems unravel into prose

if written for anyone else. All the praise I say,

if not of her, turns to lament.


How could  a mere garment hide such beauty?

She tripped, and struck by the arrow of hope,

I fell too.


She tripped and fell. Her veil covered her.

What would have happened to me

had her veil fallen too?

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