Last Tuesday, an Israeli air raid turned Samir Mansour’s library into a heap of rubble after serving for many years as a primary intellectual source for Palestinian authors, researchers, and students.
Prior to the destruction of the library, a reader could find an endless list of books, whether scholarly books, religious volumes, or a large number of translated international works – Russian literature, English novels, or South American authors.
But it all ended at about 5 AM on Tuesday, May 18. Samir Mansour, the owner of the library, was sitting watching television when he learned that the Israeli military had made a telephone call to warn Palestinians that the entire building was about to be bombed.
Mansour, in his 50s, rushed towards the library as if he was ready to stop the bombs with his bare hands. Nearly 200 meters away, he realized the futility of his quest. He stopped, retreated, and watched the whole thing happen.
In the early 1980s, Mansour was only 15 years old when he assumed his first job, helping his father with the library. In 2000, he developed his father’s project further by establishing a publishing house, which later became an essential outlet for Palestinian authors and educators, especially after the hermetic blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006.
But now, nothing is left but smashed chairs and mutilated books.
“40 years of my life were destroyed in a second,” Mansour said while clinching tightly on his cigarette.
“There are 100,000 books buried under this mountain of concrete,” he added. “And for what? Not only my library had nothing to do with any political party or group, I myself do not have any personal affiliation with any party or group.”
“I lived through two popular uprisings and three Israeli wars against Gaza, but this never happened before. They never destroyed my library. This is a war on Palestinian culture and education.”
Dr. Mahmoud Assaf is one of the publishing company’s most popular and read authors. “The first book I have ever bought was in this library, and the first book I have ever authored was published by this library. This library was not only an expression of Gaza’s intellectual community but the intellectual identity of all Palestinians everywhere. It is the beautiful face of Gaza,” he said.
“I will never forget that my first book was published here. I was so honored and so excited. Since then, I published 15 different volumes here, focusing on science and education, but the Israeli military machine pulverized everything. They killed the dreams of a whole generation that was linked to this library. But we will rebuild it, we will rebuild it better than it was. They destroy and we rebuild. It has always been this way.”
(All Photos: Mahmoud Ajjour)
(The Palestine Chronicle)