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Posted on: March 26th, 2014 by Dorothy Sampson No Comments

What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?  by David Harris-Gershon

A few months after the start of World War I, On Christmas Day 1914, the German and British troops spontaneously stopped shooting at each other.  They crossed through the barbed wire separating their positions and met on the ground between to play soccer, share photos and sing carols together.  It is a remarkable story.  The generals were not amused.  They knew that when a warrior begins to see the enemy as a human being, he begins to hesitate.  He is no longer fit for battle.  Indeed, after the troops were reprimanded, some of the men had to be pulled off the front line, because they could no longer kill as they were ordered to.

I thought of this story when I read David Harris-Gershon’s memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?  David and Jamie,  newlyweds, moved to Jerusalem full of hope.  Their adventure and dreams were shattered when a bomb exploded in the cafeteria at Hebrew University.  By a quirk of fate, Jaime, though severely injured, was spared but two close friends sitting beside her were killed.

The story continues as David tries to come to terms with what has happened. With the help of therapy, Jamie works through her trauma, but David’s healing stalls.  He cannot accept that a human being would do what the terrorist did to another human being. Between an inability to breathe regularly, compulsive behavior and insomnia, he begins studying every news article of the attack.  In one account, he reads that the Hamas bomber, Mohammad Odeh, expressed remorse, a small glimpse that the bomber is more than just a monster. This sets David on a search to understand the history of the two peoples, the cultural framework that cultivates such hatred.  In his study, he acknowledges that Palestinians as well as Jews have suffered and admits his own attitudes, suspicions, and distrust are complicit in the divide that leads to violence.  He resolves to meet the bomber, the man, face to face.  But, like the WWI generals who won’t permit fraternizing, the Israeli government has many strategies to prevent such an encounter of reconciliation.  David settles for a meeting with the Odeh family, whom he finds to be good and kind and he states “their talk was good.” It is a remarkable story.

– Reviewed by Dorothy Sampson

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