By David Harris-Gershon
Oneworld Publications 2013
A young American Jewish couple moved to Israel to study at Hebrew University. On July 31, 2002, the wife was sitting in the university campus cafeteria eating with friends when a bomb exploded, killing her friends and many others. She was badly injured.
A Palestinian from East Jerusalem – Mohammad Odeh – was responsible.
The husband’s memoir of that experience chronicles his journey before, during and after the explosion.
David comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, received a traditional Jewish education in the United States, and met his future wife in 1997 at the Chabad rabbi’s home at Indiana University. Their story mirrors the story of many American Jews I suspect, at least the religious observant Jews.
After recovering from the explosion, they returned to Washington, DC, their first child was born, and he taught at an elite Jewish school. However, something was terribly wrong. His wife was the victim of the attack but David was barely functioning. Counseling and therapy didn’t seem to help.
The story leads the reader through David’s recovery process. He started reading about the perpetrator and the history of the Palestinians, a different narrative than the history he had learned as a child. Part IV “Collective History” is a very moving account of his attempt to understand the Palestinians’ perspective of the founding of the State of Israel and the Nakba (“Catastrophe”).
David read about South Africa’s truth and recovery process and decided he wanted to meet Mohammad Odeh, to understand why he did it, maybe hear an apology, and so he contacted the Israeli Prison to ask permission for the visit. Without letting the cat out of the bag, I can tell you that David finds his own personal reconciliation through his journey of trying to understand the “other”.
I couldn’t put this book down; highly recommend it, especially to American Jews who are interested in how a fellow Jew discovered the humanity in himself as well as in the Palestinian who tried to kill his wife.