cover image A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy

Nathan Thrall. Metropolitan, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-85497-1

Journalist Thrall (The Only Language They Understand) offers a unique window onto the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this captivating profile of Abed Salama, a Palestinian phone company worker and political activist, on the day in February 2012 when his five-year-old son, Malid, was among the seven people killed in a traffic accident near Jerusalem. The driver of the semitrailer that crashed into the bus carrying Malid’s kindergarten class was blamed for the accident and sentenced to 30 months in prison, but investigators failed to spell out other factors that made the accident and its aftermath worse, such as badly maintained Palestinian infrastructure (the road was congested and poorly lit); the barrier wall dividing Jerusalem from surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods (checkpoints delayed first responders); and a bureaucratic system intended to restrict Palestinians like Salama (because his ID indicated that he had served time in prison—a stint resulting from his affiliation with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine—Salama was unable to cross into Jerusalem in search of his son). Through extensive interviews and research, Thrall reconstructs the day of the accident, interweaving stories of Jewish and Palestinian people involved, including a doctor and a teacher who helped rescue some of the children. But he also dives into the past, recounting Salama’s and the rescuers’ life stories and the history of the construction of the barrier wall. It’s a heart-wrenching portrait of an unequal society. (Oct.)