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What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist who Tried to Kill Your Wife?: A Memoir

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David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, in the midst of a historic cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, a bomb shrieked through Hebrew University’s cafeteria. Jamie was hurled across the room, her body burned and sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were instantly killed. David was desperate for answers—why now? why here? why my wife? But when a doctor handed him some shrapnel removed from Jamie’s body, he refused to accept that this bit of ...
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David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, in the midst of a historic cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, a bomb shrieked through Hebrew University’s cafeteria. Jamie was hurled across the room, her body burned and sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were instantly killed. David was desperate for answers—why now? why here? why my wife? But when a doctor handed him some shrapnel removed from Jamie’s body, he refused to accept that this bit of metal made him “one of us”—another traumatized victim who would never be able to move on. Instead, he dug into Israeli government records to uncover what triggered the attack, then returned to East Jerusalem to meet the terrorist and his family.

Part memoir, part political thriller, part exposé of the conduct of the peace process, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Middle East conflict—and reveals the human capacity for recovery and reconciliation, no matter the circumstance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this courageous memoir, Harris-Gershon stares down the thorny Palestinian-Israeli crisis. The complex conflict becomes a deeply personal matter when his wife is seriously injured in a Jerusalem terrorist bombing. The author, a blogger for Tikkun magazine, takes us through the lives of his wife, Jamie, and Hamas bomber Mohammed Odeh in the hours before the explosion at the Hebrew University’s cafeteria. He then describes the horrible aftermath of the explosion, Jamie’s agonizing journey of healing, and the death of her friends. While Harris-Gershon’s friends and family think he should be outraged, he clings to his Hebrew faith, seeking meaning from the ordeal, concluding that the terrible act was “the inevitable consequence of living in Israel.” His assured narrative pace—an excellent hybrid of moral confessional and reporter diary—measures the emotional and spiritual impact of his wife’s recovery and his decision to find Odeh’s family in East Jerusalem. Harris-Gershon seeks solace in the terrorist’s remorse upon his arrest. Full of unexpected surprises and insight, this book serves up a treasure of possible options of compromise, forgiveness, and political cooperation. Agent: Jessica Papin, Dystel & Goderich. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“A harrowing experience… becomes a potent lesson for personal growth… [Harris-Gershon’s] honesty and humility give the memoir historical context, and ultimately elevate his story from the individual to the universal.” —Time Out New York

"Fierce... A tale of redemption and new beginnings and of truly embracing the other. Harris-Gershon’s story is not really about Middle East politics so much as it is a story of healing—a debate about whether South African–style reconciliation and restorative dialogue can really bring about closure after an event of unspeakable pain and violence." —Slate

"Brave and impressive." —Guardian

"It is a story about how a great personal trauma can lead to a journey that upends long-held beliefs and ideas. The terrific thing about this book is that the author manages to tell his story without sentimentality, grandiose pronouncements, or false humility. He pulls the reader in with his unpretentious, laconic style, and with his refusal to shy away from acknowledging his own flaws." —Daily Beast

"This enormously compelling title smashes preconceived notions while delivering an unforgettable and provocative story about the roots of terrorism and the nature of victimhood... Bracing, intense, and relentless, this is a book about how we as humans get to the darkest of places and the questions we must ask to find our way out. A transformative reading experience." —Booklist, starred review

"An arduous, brave, messy, raw, emotional journey." —Kirkus Reviews

"Harris-Gershon's prose and storytelling abilities are matched only by his deep and moving compassion and humanity, all of which spillout on every page of this amazing book." —Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son

"This book is an act of forgiveness. It does what all great non-fiction does, which is to look with ruthless honesty at that which is most beautiful and terrible within all of us - friend, enemy, lover, stranger. A beautifully written, brave and compassionate book." —Sarah Messer, author of Red House

"An immensely compelling and intelligent memoir that leads the reader through anger and confusion towards reconciliation and hope." —Richard Zimler, author of The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon and The Warsaw Anagrams

Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781851689965
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 354,895
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Harris-Gershon is a popular online columnist for Tikkun magazine, the Jersualem Post, and Daily Kos. He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and his essays, creative writing, and poetry have been published in Colorado Review, Passages North, Burnside Review, Pebble Lake Review, and many others.
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Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader

I. The Bombing

II. Disconnection

III. Recovery

IV. Collective History

V. Reckoning


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Customer Reviews

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