The 2018 Palestine International Book Fair: A cultural gathering
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Publish Date: 2018/05/09
The 2018 Palestine International Book Fair: A cultural gathering

Thousands of books were on display at the 11th Palestine International Book Fair held at the newly established National Library. (WAFA Images / Hamza Shalash)

By: Khaled Tayeh

RAMALLAH, May 8, 2018 (WAFA) – With the participation of some 500 publishing houses from as far as Venezuela in the western part of the hemisphere to Japan in the eastern part, and going through Russia and many other countries in between, the 11th Palestine International Book Fair opened its doors on May 3 at the Palestinian National Library in Ramallah.

Held every two years, the Palestine International Book Fair normally attracts numerous publishing houses, book dealers and authors, either directly or through representatives, from all around the world. The purpose: to encourage the public’s interest in books and reading, according to officials.

The fair also offers the public many interesting, refreshing and energizing cultural events, such as book signing sessions, seminars, music, poetry reading, among others.

The book fair is set up on an area of 5,000 square meters of the Palestinian National Library. It is the first event of the newly founded National Library, established on what was built to be the Presidential Guest Palace, and which is still in the process of building.

The book fair focused mainly on two main themes: Jerusalem, being the capital of Palestine, and marking 70 years for the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe that led to the forceful displacement and dispersion of the Palestinian people from their homeland when it became Israel.

“The main purpose of this fair is to celebrate Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, which goes simultaneously with the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, which we’re celebrating on the 15th of May,” said Abdul Salam Atari, head of the Fair Organizing Committee. “At the same time, we have many cultural activities, seminars and workshops.”

Atari said public turnout during the first days of the book fair was acceptable.

“The public turnout this year is acceptable. I hope more visitors will come to the fair during the upcoming days,” Atari said. “We provided transportation to anyone who wanted to attend the fair, whether from the West Bank cities or even from within the 'Green Line’ (inside Israel), such as Haifa, Nazareth and Acre.”

In comparison to previous fairs, Atari said that due to the huge area on which this year’s fair is established, more publishing houses were able to take part in it. The space was large enough to accommodate all of them.

In addition to Arab publishing houses, international publishing representatives from Russia, Venezuela, Korea, Japan, and Italy have also decided to take part in the Palestinian culture and book fair, said Atari.

Among the Arab publishing houses participating in the fair is Dar Dijlah, a Jordanian-Iraqi publishing house that sells and publishes books on sports, languages, politics and arts. Their representative said that the public turnout in the previous fairs was better than this year’s and the same thing goes for the book sales.

The local Sharbain’s Bookshop was also present in the fair. The bookshop that only sells English-language books had its own section where it welcomed readers and visitors to buy classic and newly released editions of the books it had on display.

According to the Palestinian Research Center, which also participated in the event, this year’s fair turnout is a little bit less than it was two years ago, which could be due to several reasons such as the unsteady, rainy weather, or the fair’s location, which is a bit far from the center of Ramallah for some people and on the outskirts of the city.

Eliana Quaider, from Birzeit University’s Institute of Law library, thinks that the fair this year is amazingly done and that the fact that it was held in the National Library, which is close to the university campus, is great because “as a librarian, I always hoped for a place as big as the National Library to host such an event to promote culture and stimulate reading.”

Representative of Dar al-Shorok, a Jordan-based publishing house with the largest bookshop in Ramallah, also thought that the attendance was good, but not much better from previous fairs.

Not all the displays at the fair were books.

Jasmine Charitable Society for Children with Special Needs (JCS), established in 2002 as a non-profit organization, had display accessories, soaps, candles and simply crafty things made by the society’s residents and children.

Book fan and fair visitor Shoroq Daraghmeh thought the fair was amazing because “sometimes it’s hard to get books published by certain houses and the fair gathers all these houses together to make it easier for the public to find books they want to buy.”

The 11th Palestine International Book Fair is set to last until May 13th, and will include, besides exhibit of books and intellectual seminars, launch of the Palestine Film Festival and hosting the Palestine Cultural Forum Awards.