LONDON: Donations of cash and books have poured in to help rebuild one of Gaza’s largest and oldest bookstores, a two-story building completely razed by Israeli attacks.
The Samir Mansour bookstore was hit by multiple airstrikes on May 18, during 11 days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that claimed the lives of around 150 Palestinians.
Founded more than two decades ago, the Palestinian-owned store was a popular item in the community.
It contained tens of thousands of books, covering genres ranging from fiction to philosophy and everything in between.
Now, a global movement has emerged to rebuild Gaza’s treasure, with UK-based children’s online bookseller Books2Door donating £ 1,000.
“Without any hesitation, I knew we could help,” said Abdul Thadha, founder of Books2Door. “We have been kindly informed by the fundraisers that Samir has a diverse and eclectic collection, so we hope we have made him proud.”
A fundraiser organized by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith raised more than $ 210,000, and tens of thousands of pounds from around the world were donated to the Mansour reconstruction effort.
“Dropping bombs on Samir Mansour’s bookstore is not the worst tragedy to hit the people of Gaza, but this particular airstrike was aimed at access to books,” Rukhsana said.
“It was an attack on the knowledge and literacy of this community. Samir lost nearly 100,000 pounds and served schoolchildren and adults, ”she added.
“I knew hospitals and roads would get funding, but secondary cultural institutions like libraries are often overlooked but just as essential to the community. “
They hope to rebuild the bookstore, replace Mansour’s lost 100,000 books and create a new project, the Gaza Cultural Center, which would be a new library next door, allowing readers to borrow books without paying.
Rukhsana said in Mansour’s shop, “People were allowed to stay, have tea, and read his books for as long as they wanted for free with no obligation to purchase … library.”
Mansour told The Guardian his “heart burned” when he realized missiles had hit his bookstore.
“Israeli airstrikes shelled half of the building and my bookstore was in the other half. I wanted them to stop … My feet took me a few steps forward, towards the bookstore. The last missile came and destroyed the building, ”he said.
“It was six in the morning. I did not know what to do. I began to search among the rubble for anything related to my library. But everything was under the rubble, ”he added.
“I wondered why my store had been bombed. I have not published, written or attacked any country or person in my life. I did not spread hate but culture, science and love. I did not find answers to my questions. But he vowed to “rebuild everything again, no matter what it takes.”