PETALING JAYA, June 22 — Donations are pouring in from around the world to restore a Gaza bookshop to its former glory after it was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes last month.
Samir Mansour was one of Gaza’s most prominent booksellers and his two-storey shop featured almost 100,000 titles in various languages, The Guardian reported.
The literary treasure trove contained a myriad of genres including philosophy, art history, fiction, and children’s stories.
Mansour founded the bookshop 21 years ago and it quickly grew to become a hub of knowledge within the Gaza community.
It was reduced to a pile of rubble after Israel launched missiles at Gaza on May 18.
Photos of the damage went viral online and a GoFundMe campaign set up by human rights lawyers Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith has now raised US$215,000 (RM892,000) to help Mansour rebuild his beloved shop.
Bookworms from across the globe also sent in tens of thousands of books to assist Mansour in restocking as well.
Rukhsana said the Israeli army conducted an “attack on the knowledge and literacy of this community” when it targeted Mansour’s bookshop.
“Dropping bombs on Samir Mansour’s bookshop is not the worst tragedy to have hit the people of Gaza — but this particular airstrike targeted access to books.
“(Mansour) lost almost 100,000 books and served schoolchildren and adults alike.
“I knew hospitals and roads would receive funding, but secondary cultural institutions such as libraries are often overlooked but equally critical to the community,” Rukhsana was quoted as saying.
All the money from the fundraiser will go towards helping Mansour rebuild and restock his historic bookshop.
Rukhsana and Smith also aim to assist Mansour in setting up a cultural centre in Gaza which would include a library where readers can borrow books for free.
Mansour’s store used to be a haven for book lovers and Rukhsana said people were allowed to “stay, have tea and read his books for as long as they wanted free of charge without an obligation to purchase.”
Mansour previously told The Guardian that his “heart was burning” when he saw that his shop had been destroyed during the 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants last month.
“It was six in the morning. I didn’t know what to do.
“I started searching among the rubble for anything related to my library, but everything was under the rubble,” said Mansour.
He then rummaged through the debris for an hour searching for salvageable items before he decided to go home.
The shell-shocked Mansour said it was difficult to accept that his shop had been targeted when all he wanted to do was share knowledge.
“I did not publish, write, or attack any country or person in my life.
“I did not spread hatred but spread culture, science and love.”
Despite this, Mansour remains resilient and vows to “rebuild all over again, no matter what it took from me.”