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By Gabriella Bosticco
On 18 May 2021, multiple bookshops in Gaza were destroyed by Israeli missiles.
Amongst these bookshops was the store of Samir Mansour, the second-largest in Gaza and the leading source of foreign language books. Over 90,000 of his books were burned, ranging from fiction to non-fiction.
Collected over the 21 years since the store was built, these books represented not only a livelihood for Mansour, but a source of knowledge for many.
There has been a global campaign to rebuild his business, with multiple countries donating both books and money. Among the many teams collecting books was a small group in Aberystwyth. They set up drop-off boxes and 4 collection days around town, using Instagram (@aberbooks_palestine) to promote them. Assembling a team of volunteers, they worked together to support the cause.
Bronwen Lowery, the founder of the group, said:
Even before our first collection day, we knew the response would be very positive, as Aberystwyth is a very socially conscious town and there are many activist groups and academics who have since donated some amazing one-of-a kind books.
As a student, Lowery coordinated the group’s efforts from her student bedroom.
When my friends and I heard about the destruction of Samir Mansour’s bookshop in Gaza, we all felt truly sickened.
The group collected 625 books in total, adding to the 100,000 books collected by the project overall. This is 10,000 more than Mansour originally lost to the Israeli forces, a testament to the importance people place globally on literacy.
The bombings that destroyed the bookshop were part of 11 days of attacks before a ceasefire was declared on 21 May. Jane Harries, Peace Education Coordinator, wrote a blog about the attacks nearer the time.
Alongside the deaths of hundreds, the destruction of books suppresses knowledge and education, and there are many precedents throughout history.
If you want to help rebuild Samir Mansour’s shop, you can find out more on the cause’s main page. They are accepting donations of both books and money.