Maha reading

Thirsty for knowledge in the West Bank

26th July 2017 | Blog

Book Aid International has supported libraries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1988. We work with the British Council and the Tamer Institute for Community Education to supply books to schools, further and higher education colleges, community libraries and refugee camps.

We hope to be able to send more books to The Occupied Palestinian Territories and other places where people face barriers to accessing books and reading, but we can’t do it without you.

Maha, a school librarian in Ramallah, West Bank, told us about her experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and how she is using the books in her school library to give pupils hope despite the difficulties they face.

Ramallah is a city in the centre of the West Bank, six miles north of Jerusalem. Our school takes girls from three to eighteen years old, both Christian and Muslim. We have around 800 pupils and I have been the librarian here for seven years.

The political situation in our country means that we live with a lot of insecurity and uncertainty. One hour it could be quiet and the next everything could have changed. Travel restrictions make it difficult for us to move between the West Bank, Israel and Gaza. There are checkpoints, roadblocks and a wall which separates the West Bank from Israel. Sometimes I feel imprisoned in my own land.

I want to give my own children and the children at this school more chances than I had in life. I finished school during the violence of the First Intifada. That experience was very hard and I would never want my children to see what I saw. But they have already seen more violence than I did.

It is tough living here – we are not living a normal life. Despite these fears, people are trying to raise the children in love and hope. The library is part of that hope.

Before Book Aid International started supporting our school three years ago, getting new books was virtually impossible. It is not just that they are really expensive – they are tricky to get at all. There are not many publishers here and we cannot have mail delivered directly from any other country. Books in English are really valued. Parents encourage their children to learn English so that they can get good jobs. Children love to learn it because it makes them feel connected to the outside world.

Without these books, our school library would not have had any new reading material at all. The girls here are thirsty for knowledge – they just need the books to channel their learning. When the children hear that I have had new books delivered the rush to the library. As many as 70 students might come to borrow the books during break time!

Books open up the world and allow us to travel in our imaginations, even if we cannot travel in reality. They give the girls an insight into what is going on elsewhere and provide them with hope and ideas for the future. One student even asked me if she could be an astronaut because of a book she had read about the moon!

Reading can open up opportunities for young people – the more knowledge you have, the more choices you have in life. With your help, books are having a positive effect on the girls at St Joseph’s and other schools in Palestine.

Thanks to our generous donors, we sent more than 14,000 books to the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2016. As part of our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Lives strategy, we hope to increase support to those facing the greatest barriers to reading, such as those living in fragile states and areas affected by conflict.

Every £2 you give could send another book to a school like Maha’s. 

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If you have any questions – or would prefer to donate offline – please don’t hesitate to contact us by emailing or calling 020 7733 3577.


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