NEW YORK– Twelve years ago, David Harris-Gershon’s young wife, Jamie, was having lunch at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Frank Sinatra cafeteria when a remote controlled bomb exploded near their table, killing two of their friends. All told, the bomb killed nine people and injured about 100. Harris-Gerson was at home when an acquaintance called to inform him that Jamie had been “lightly injured.” He should come to the hospital, the acquaintance said laconically.
Panicked, the young American careened in a taxi to Hadassah Hospital, the initially recalcitrant driver circumventing roadblocks after he learns that his passenger’s wife is amongst those wounded in the bombing. Upon arriving at the emergency room, he discovers that “lightly injured” means, in Jamie’s case, a familiar face that has been rendered unrecognizable. She had second-and- third degree burns over 30 percent of her body, and internal injuries that required emergency surgery, followed by more surgeries for skin grafts.
This is the central event in Harris-Gershon’s memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? It is a story about how a great personal trauma can lead to a personal 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.
The first half of the book, roughly 140 pages, is about the physical wounds that healed and the psychic wounds that did not. It is also about two normative American Jews who grew up in a liberal suburban milieu, met at a university Hillel event, married and, searching for a deeper understanding of their identities, came to Jerusalem to study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. The second half is about the author’s search for reconciliation and psychic healing, culminating in a meeting in the East Jerusalem home of the family of the man who had planted the bomb that nearly killed his wife.
The story of meeting, falling in love with and marrying his wife frames Harris-Gershon’s vivid, urgent descriptions of the guilt, rage and grief...Read More