Almost 200 guests turned out on a balmy Monday evening in Nicosia on the 1st of June 2009 to attend the launch of the new edition of Life at the Crossroads: A History of Gaza, by Gerald Butt.
In the gardens of the capital's Municipality, Mayor Eleni Mavrou gave the keynote speech in which she said that the Cypriot people had empathy for the Palestinians due to their own experience of war and occupation. She applauded the publication of a book that drew the attention of the world both to the plight of the Palestinian people and the rich history of their homeland.
Journalist and history teacher Maria Chrysanthou then gave a thorough overview of the book in Greek for the benefit of the Greek speakers in attendance.
Next, Gerald Butt spoke to the audience about Life at the Crossroads and why he wrote the first edition in 1995. Life for the people in Gaza was grim in the days of the First Intifada, which began in 1987. Gerald said he had not considered that a place that looked so destitute could have a long and rich history. But his vision of Gaza 's past changed when he began researching the book.
Learning about the history of Gaza made Gerald into an ardent supporter of its people, and he said in his speech that despite ‘the hardship in Gaza ...I think there are two very important things that we should be celebrating. The first is the fact that, despite all appearances to the contrary, the people of Gaza have a long and distinguished history - a history that deserves to be told. Secondly, I think we should be celebrating the determination of the Gaza people to go on doing what they have done throughout three millennia of history - resisting foreign occupation and fighting for independence.'
After his talk, Gerald signed copies of his book and guests were also entertained by singers May Nasr from Lebanon, who flew in especially from Beirut to perform at the event, and Greek Cypriot Michalis Mazoras.
All of us at Rimal Publications were delighted by such a warm, welcoming response from the people of Cyprus, and in particular from the mayor and her staff who went out of their way to provide the venue and assistance to ensure the book launch was carried off in a professional way. A quarter of the proceeds from the sales were donated by Rimal Publications to the Palestinian Welfare Organization's Emergency Appeal for Aid and Support for Gaza.