Books offer an opportunity to escape to different worlds. The ability to escape reality is not always available for the inhabitants of the conflict-ridden Gaza Strip, and books are precious items that have just as hard of a time entering the tiny piece of land as basic goods.
One young man, however, has pledged to give all Gazans access to books they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to read.
Mosab Abu Toha is the founder of Gaza’s first English-language library. As a young intellectual and avid book reader, he wanted to build the library in order to educate Gazans about the world beyond the strip’s borders.
“There are many people who wish to travel abroad and study at international universities,” Abu Toha told BECAUSE. “The siege on Gaza has laid many restrictions on the life of Gazans. One way to help people is to bring books to them.”
Given that most of Gaza’s libraries have been destroyed or closed due to incessant bombings, Abu Toha’s mission aims to defy the odds set against him. He has called the library the Edward Said Public Library, in honor of the late Palestinian-American writer and professor of literature.
Abu Toha has populated his library with as many books as he can get his hands on. He has even caught the attention of some well-known writers, including Noam Chomsky, who have donated books to the library in order to further its goal of giving Gazans access to knowledge.
Expanding the library has proven to be a difficult task given the restrictions on incoming materials.
“Books and other packages and parcels take such a long time to arrive in Gaza,” explained Abu Toha. “Normally it takes orders about 10 days to reach the recipient. However, here in Gaza, it could take up to 7 weeks.”
While the books, or at least some of them, do eventually arrive, Abu Toha asks for all the help he can get. Using the library’s Facebook page, Abu Toha crowdsources books by asking for donations. The library currently holds over 1,000 books, most of which come from Abu Toha’s own personal library.
“This place should be a place where all books from different places and backgrounds meet in Gaza and help Gazans become more educated,” said Abu Toha, who added that he hopes the library will encourage the people of Gaza to start writing their own books.
Abu Toha’s generosity sizes up to more than the donation of his own books. The library was previously housed in his own home. However, he was able to move the library to its own building after successfully raising over $15,000 in his crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Although frequent raids and bombings in Gaza have destroyed much of the territory’s buildings over the years, Abu Toha has not been deterred from pushing his dream forward.
“Gaza has been under siege since 2006 and it has undergone three wars, which left nothing as it was,” he said. “If one will think of what might happen in the future, nothing would become better anymore.”
Photo credit: The Library & Bookshop for Gaza Facebook page.