Iconic Gaza Bookstore Reopens Months After Israeli Strike | National Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An iconic Gaza bookstore destroyed in an Israeli airstrike last year reopened Thursday, lifting the spirits of its ecstatic owner and a large crowd of well-wishers celebrating the moment.

The five-story building that housed Samir Mansour’s bookstore on the ground floor was reduced to rubble during the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas leaders of the Palestinian territory in May. The store’s 100,000 books have become piles of torn papers mired in ash and dust.

“I was devastated when the store was destroyed and our friends and loved ones cheered me up. But today I was born again, today is a new birthday for me,” said- he declared.

Opened in 2000 in a busy Gaza City block near three universities, Mansour’s bookstore was popular with students and general readers. What made it special was that Mansour could acquire any book on demand if it was not available in the few libraries in Gaza.

Gaza has been under a strict Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took control in 2007, and importing specialty goods can be particularly difficult.

Thanks to generous donations, the store reopened in a nearby building, this time with more space and a larger and more diverse inventory.

Mansour says the donations came mainly from British activists who launched global fundraising campaigns and secured a larger book collection than the one that was destroyed.

“Our British brothers and people compensated us with 150,000 pounds,” Mansour said.

The beams from the overhead projectors gave a brilliant look to the books that were on top quality wooden shelves. The three-story bookstore features children’s books, novels by local, Arab, and international authors, as well as business and programming guides, among other entries. In total, the new store has a collection of 400,000 books.

“The destruction did us no harm. Instead, it made us strong,” Mansour said as dozens of people thronged the store’s entrance during the opening ceremony.

For Yara Eid, who was born the same year the store opened, the bookstore gave a glimpse of life beyond Gaza. The blockade makes it extremely difficult for Gazans to travel abroad.

“The Samir Mansour Bookstore means a lot to me,” said Eid, who said she plans to study for a master’s degree in Britain. “Without this bookstore, I wouldn’t have experienced life outside of Gaza because we are under blockade.

“As a child,” she added, “my imagination was built from these books, which gave me hope that there is another life, not just wars and outpourings of blood”.

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