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Palestinians open Sheikh Jarrah bookshop in tribute to demolished Gaza store

East Jerusalem residents show their solidarity with the Samir Mansour bookshop, which was recently destroyed by Israeli air strikes on besieged enclave
For many, the newly opened bookshop in Sheikh Jarrah serves as a symbol of unity between Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza (Twitter)

Residents in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Jerusalem opened a bookshop on Wednesday in honour of the one demolished by Israeli air strikes in Gaza earlier this month.

The Samir Mansour bookshop was built 21 years ago and was known for being Gaza’s largest. Two storeys tall, it was home to tens of thousands of books.

On 18 May, the store - along with most of its books - was destroyed by Israeli air strikes.

Posts on the bookshop’s Instagram page showed the damage. Books could be seen to be strewn across the ground underneath the rubble.

One caption under a post read: “The library that smiled at passers-by and readers and was loved by everyone has disappeared; praise be to God.”

Following its demolition, residents in Sheikh Jarrah rallied to set up their own bookshop of the same name. For many of them, the unity of the two bookstores represents the unity between Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza.

Residents of Sheikh Jarrah setting up the bookshop
Translation: The Samir Mansour bookshop. The bookshop in Gaza was demolished on 18 May 2021. It was rebuilt in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem on 19 May 2021 (Screengrab/ Twitter)

The Sheikh Jarrah bookshop was created a day after the Gaza one was demolished. It opened officially on 26 May. 

On Wednesday, Muna al-Kurd, a prominent Palestinian activist and journalist who lives in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, shared footage of the store’s opening on her Instagram page.

In a separate video, she is seen explaining the significance of the Sheikh Jarrah bookshop. 

“We send a big greeting to Samir Mansour, whose bookshop got bombed. Today he sent us a gift from Gaza, these books which bear the logo: ‘Samir Mansour bookshop’.”

Translation: Residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem open the Samir Mansour bookshop, which was bombed and destroyed in Gaza City during the recent aggression.

Ahmed Rukn, a Palestinian activist who regularly participates in acts of solidarity, spoke to Middle East Eye's Latifeh Abdellatif about the newly established bookshop.

“The idea was for the bookshop to be the Sheikh Jarrah bookshop, but after the recent events in Gaza, the collective decision was to name it the Samir Mansour bookshop as a matter of support for Gaza, linking Jerusalem with Gaza," Rukn said.

When asked about the link between the people in Jerusalem and Gaza, Rukn responded: “We are one people and one suffering and one cause. They are us and we are them.”

Social media was quick to herald the solidarity shown in the opening of the bookshop. 

Translation: It was demolished in Gaza and rebuilt by Sheikh Jarrah. Young people inaugurate the Samir Mansour library, which the occupation bombed in Gaza City during the recent Israeli aggression, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem. Palestine has become one entity in Gaza, in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, they are all one against the occupier.

Another user tweeted that the opening “confirm[ed] that the Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or Jerusalem, or in the '48 territories or the Gaza Strip, or outside the homeland, are on one heart, one blood and one cause”.

For many, the establishment of the bookshop in Sheikh Jarrah served as a symbol of hope. 

Translation: The best view I saw today, the Samir Mansour bookshop in Sheikh Jarrah!

A GoFundMe fundraising page was set up soon after the original Samir Mansour bookshop was destroyed.

Israel-Gaza: Huge fundraising effort seeks to get bombed bookshop rebuilt
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In a matter of days, the page raised over $150,000, which will be used to restore the shop.

Over 3000 individuals have so far donated, with many leaving messages of hope and support.

One donor wrote: “Freedom comes in many forms, the more profound kind only obtainable through the power of knowledge, books in particular.”

Another reminisced about their own visit to the bookstore, writing: “I donated because I've been to Samir's bookshop and it's an oasis in the besieged Gaza Strip. It's as necessary as oxygen.”

This is not the first bookshop in Gaza that has received such widespread attention. A similar fundraiser raised over $130,000 for Shaaban Aslem’s bookshop, which was also reduced to rubble by Israeli bombing.