Talking about this reminds me of one of the most memorable prison library moments. We had found out that the movement had managed to smuggle Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun into the old Nablus prison. We all raced to get our names on the list of people wanting to read the book, and the wait lasted weeks! Several times, we resorted to making copies of sought-after books like this. Of course, copies were done with pen and paper, and I remember copying Naji Aloush’s The Palestinian National Movement of which we made five hand-written copies. I remember how we all raced for the writings of Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Amado, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Hanna Mina, Nazim Hikmet, and many, many others.
Through the will and perseverance of the prisoners, prison was transformed into a school, a veritable university offering education in literature, languages, politics, philosophy, history and more. The graduates of this university excelled in various fields. I still remember the words of Bader al-Qawasmah, one of my compatriots who I met in the old Nablus prison in 1984, who said to me, “before prison I was a porter who could neither read nor write. Now, after 14 years in prison, I write in Arabic, I teach Hebrew, and I translate from English.” I remember the words of Saleh Abu Tayi’ [Palestinian refugee in Syria who was a political prisoner in Israeli jails for seventeen years before being released in the prisoner exchange of 1985] who told me vivid stories of prisoners’ adventures smuggling books, pieces of paper, and even the ink-housing tubes of pens."