AThis is our interview with Heba, a local Arab woman from Lod and the creator of the Chicago Community Center’s new Arabic language library. Here we spoke to Heba about her love of literature, how she wants to use her library to create social and cultural change within Lod, and her vision for the future.
Why did you decide to open an Arabic language library?
“It was my dream for a long time to do this in Lod. For a very long time if you wanted to buy an Arabic language book you would have to go to Ramallah or somewhere where Arabic is more widely spoken because there just wasn’t an Arabic language library. Alternatively, if you wanted to find an English or Hebrew language book you could do so very easily. With this library I’m trying to change the preconceptions that people have about Lod because it is a very stigmatized place. For me, this isn’t just about buying and selling books, it’s about helping others learn. This is an important value of mine and it is a huge dream. I know there are people here who love to read and I want the library and the projects we do to serve as a place for them to express their ideas and thoughts about literature. In parts of Israeli society people call Lod a black hole, but I really want to change this. I want to show that people here are capable of creating change.
I think that reading is something that can really bring a lot of change to Lod. It can expose people to so many different ideas and cultures and facilitate a lot of important education. Something I want to do with this library is to use it as a meeting point between cultures. We have books here from Russian, American, and Latin authors that have been translated into Arabic so people can learn more about other parts of the world.”
Do you want to open other Arabic language libraries?
“First of all I definitely want to make this place larger. This is a small area and I think it’s important for it to expand. Ultimately however, I want to help open a very large Arabic language library inside of Israel. This is a huge dream of mine and I know it can happen because if this came true then I know that my other dreams can come true as well. “
Have you always been very passionate about literature?
“Always, always, always. The thing that makes me the happiest in the world is books. I have always loved books more than anything and they make me the happiest woman when I work.”
What are some of your favorite books that you have in this library?
“I love all of the philosophy books. They really make me think and expand upon my own ideas. I also love novels.”
Is this the main project that you’re focusing on right now or do you have other things you want to focus on for the future?
“This is the main project that im working on right now but I’m also making plans to put a reading group together, to bring lecturers from outside of the community speak, and to create more conversations about literature within Lod.”