This is an inspiring story you won’t read in the New York Times. Mosab Abu Toah is a young Gaza intellectual in the groundbreaking program We Are Not Numbers. He has fallen in love with English language books and begun to amass a library. Here’s his Facebook page, which features Herman Melville and Noam Chomsky.
Abu Toah says books have allowed him to transcend imprisonment:
Freedom is a state of mind. You’re liberating yourself by living in an imaginary world where there are no boundaries…. I can be free through my writing, my speaking.
He has 600 books in his house. He wants to make those books available to other Gazans. So he started an Indiegogo campaign to build a library, and as of late March had raised $2000 and gotten 200 books.
Katha Pollitt has an important piece up at The Nation about his effort: In Gaza, she writes, “most of the public libraries have been closed or destroyed, and where the remaining ones hold only 70,000 books for a population of 1.8 million.” (Susan Sontag had nearly 1/4 of that many books just in her NY apartment…) More from Pollitt:
Mosab Abu Toha, a young Gazan with a degree in English literature who has never been able to explore the world due to Israel’s ban on travel, escapes through reading. Now he is trying to start an English-language library and book shop. (It will have books in Arabic as well—there is a great shortage of books in any language in Gaza, much fewer than one per person.)
He and his friend Shafi Salem have collected hundreds of books, which currently live in his apartment. His dream is to set up a library in a building of its own, with a coffee shop and a book shop—the sort of social and cultural amenity that is practically nonexistent in Gaza, where most of the public libraries have been closed or destroyed, and where the remaining ones hold only 70,000 books for a population of 1.8 million.
Now the two young men have started a crowdfunder to raise $15,000 to get the library off the ground–for rent, shelves, tables, chairs, and staff.
Here’s what Noam Chomsky had to say about the campaign:
It has been amazing, and inspiring, to see how people surviving in the Gaza prison, subject to constant and vicious attack and living under conditions of brutal deprivation, continue to maintain their dignity and commitment to a better life. Mosab’s initiative to create a library and cultural center in Gaza is an outstanding example of these remarkable efforts. What he is seeking to achieve would make a very significant contribution to enriching the lives of Gazans and providing them with opportunities for a much better future. It merits strong support from everyone concerned with justice and basic human rights.
Please take a minute and check out the crowdfunding site, watch that video. Mosab Abu Toha is up to $6,283.