Israel’s blockade of the Gazan strip conjures many grim images. Basic human necessities like food, clean water, and stable electricity are hard to come by in Gaza. In a fascinating article in the Christian Science Monitor we learn that books too, are incredibly scarce. This of course makes education difficult.
The combination of the blockade and the total lack of communication between the Israeli government and Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that governs over Gaza, has made it difficult for educators to obtain the books they need to run schools.
What Gazans have done about this problem is the stuff of Hollywood movies. Ruqaya Izzidien writes for CSM:
Book smugglers in Gaza are reluctant to disclose details on their routes, fearing ramifications from the Israeli government, which already bombs the Egypt-Gaza tunnels several times a year, and the Hamas government, which has increased its searches at the passenger-only Rafah border crossing, through with retailers also attempt to smuggle goods. The Gazan government considers the tunnels a legitimate trade route, so it allows goods to pass through there.
Gazan education officials assert that the tunnels are key to the education of Gaza’s 500,000 students. Awni Maqayyid, head of the Hamas-run Islamic University’s Central Library, says that “the education system would collapse” without the tunnel industry.
Despite smugglers’ attempts to stock Gaza’s libraries and bookstores – around 5 million textbooks are required per year – Palestinians are still frustrated by the lack of books in Gaza. They hold Israel responsible, arguing that the restrictions on book imports amounts to a censoring of their education.
No doubt more than books pass through the Egypt-Gaza tunnels, but the evocative image of booksellers, educators and smugglers working together is one that is hard to resist. The article also discusses piracy in the Gaza Strip.