An American journalist makes an ambitious, ultimately resigned attempt to achieve reconciliation for Israeli-Palestinian sins through a painful revisiting of the 2002 terrorist attack in Jerusalem that severely injured his wife.
Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, were both studying Jewish Education at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in the summer of 2002 when their happy plans were brutally derailed by the explosion of a backpack bomb at a university cafe, which gravely injured Jamie and killed her two companions. A Palestinian Israeli with a wife and young children from East Jerusalem, Mohammad Odeh, was indicted and imprisoned for the bombing. Odeh had been recruited by a Jerusalem Hamas cell that used his contacts as a university painter to infiltrate the grounds. Surgery to remove shrapnel and a long stint in the burn unit spelled months of recovery for Jamie, and the couple decided that they could not remain in Israel. They settled in Washington, D.C., where the author got a job at the Jewish Day School, and the couple started a family. In his erratic account that swings wildly back and forth in time, Harris-Gershon tracks the couple’s attempts at an emotional coming-to-terms with their Jewish identity, all the while sifting through the political stalemate and outright hostility between the two sides that resulted in the Hebrew University bombing. Obsessed by his failure to protect his wife from harm and Israel’s inability to protect its people from violence, Harris-Gershon recognized that “only through storytelling, I could reclaim myself.” That entailed returning to Israel and facing down the truth of the attack and even the attacker. Learning Odeh’s name, meeting his family and walking around in his shoes both confounded the author and helped in “choking out something transformative: choking out a blessing.”
An arduous, brave, messy, raw, emotional journey.