In 2002, David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, had traveled across the world to study at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem. When a bomb went off in the Hebrew University cafeteria where Jamie was eating one day, the scope of Harris-Gershon’s learning expanded unexpectedly and dramatically. His effort to process his wife’s trauma—and his own—is the subject of his new memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?
The title’s question—half-etiquette query and half-despairing plea—reflects Harris-Gershon’s approach to his and his wife’s story of recovery: straightforward and factual, yet unafraid to admit moments of total loss. After hearing that the bomber, Mohammed Odeh, has expressed remorse about the attack, Harris-Gershon begins to read about and humanize Palestinians—a group he’d previously classed as evil—and seeks a reconciliation meeting with Odeh.
Preparing for the meeting brings more unanswerable questions. For Odeh’s son, Harris-Gershon buys a Rubik’s cube, a puzzle there are no shortcuts to solving. He never meets the bomber himself, but meeting with his family underscores the trajectory of Harris-Gershon’s story: a bewildering widening of one couple’s world.
November 15, 2013