Whispers in Rubble: My Library’s Tale

Nasser Atallah

Nasser Atallah recounts the tragic story of his Gaza library, revealing how Israel’s brutal attack has not only shattered his dreams but also obliterated the collection he spent decades assembling. He expresses:

For fifty years, I’ve been collecting my books for my library, moving them across countries until they found a home in Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip. In the year I left, I decided to count and mark each book’s origin. The first, a gift from my brother (may God have mercy on him), was a poetry collection by Mahmoud Darwish titled “The Olive Leaves,” received when I was just ten.

I continued collecting books, amassing over 500 by 1987, forming my first library in a modest room in the Al-Hamidiyah district of the coastal Tartous Governorate in Syria. Traveling to Poland for knowledge-seeking, I added dozens of books upon my return, expanding my library’s diversity. With marriage and independence, my library now occupies a three-meter-wide wall. I acknowledge the religious influence in my collection, focusing on faith, biography, jurisprudence, psychology, and literary works, especially poetry, critical and historical studies, and philosophy.

Leaving my first library in 1994, I chose a few to move to Gaza. I established a new library, balanced with various cultures and races, housing literature alongside religious, political, and historical works. It became my private world, occupying an entire ground floor in a building for my children. The balcony, adorned with citrus, olive, palm, and almond trees, witnessed regular cleaning and polishing sessions, reflecting my aversion to monotony. Every two or three months, I’d move books to maintain a dynamic environment, especially with changing seasons.

Today, my library lies buried and destroyed, books torn, burned, covers ruined, and awards destroyed after an attack on my house. Despite its destruction, my library was a trustworthy haven influenced by poets, novelists, thinkers, philosophers, and leaders. They were not a threat but heroes, shaping my thoughts and advocating creativity. Now, as my library is under rubble, I mourn its loss, hoping for its return to bask in the sun’s brilliance.


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Youth's poetry ignites my quest, Against oppression, I protest. In Palestine's struggle, voices rise, For freedom, peace, justice, my cries.
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