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September 6, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 6, 2013

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 :lm pens memoir By Ta!ia Lavin NEW YORK (JTA-- David Harris-Gershon, author of the forthcoming memoir "What Do You Buy the Chil- dren of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?," is frank about the contradic- tions in his personality. An admitted "natural introvert," Harris-Gershon describes himself as "sur- prisingly good" at public speaking. "I love being in front of an audience," said Harris- Gershon, 39, who works as a Judaic studies teacher in Pittsburgh, "but it drains me." Nonetheless, Harris- Gershon maintains a very public profile as a liberal commentator on Middle East politics, blogging for the progressive publica- tions Tikkun magazine and Daily Kos. But with the publication of his memoir, Harris-Ger- shon delves into the deeply personal events--some catastrophic, some thera- peutic-that have led to his political stance. The memoir, due in U.S. bookstores on Sept. 10, begins with the Hebrew University bombing in 2002 that killed two of his friends and severely injured his wife, Jamie, who had shrapnel lodged in her body. "Despite the fact that the book begins with the attack, her injury and her recovery, she understands that it is primarily a chronicle of my story and my experience-- myself as a secondary vic- tim," Harris-Gershon said. After the couple left Israel in 2003, Harris-Gershon began suffering symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, including crip- pling anxiety attacks. The book delves deeply into his recovery process, including the traditional and innova- tive forms of therapy he tries. Ultimately, however, Harris-Gershon's recovery was enabled not by con- ventional therapy but by an unprecedented encounter --one that led to a political awakening. Spurred by an article in 7 He uild Tomorrow, Today Bruce Gould, JNF Board of Directors, Assistant Treasurer One World Publishing The cover of David Harris-Gershon's memoir, in which he shares his psychological journey following the 2002 Je- rusalem terrorist attach that severely injured his wife. The book is due in U.S. bookstores on Sept. 10. which the cafe bomber, Mo- hammed Odeh, expressed FUND yo 't ( remorse for his actions, Harris-Gershon set out on a quixotic quest to meet the terrorist. The memoir details Har- ris-Gershon's unsuccessful attempts to meet Odeh, a member of Hamas who is being held in an Israeli prison. Blocked repeatedly by the thorny machinations of Israeli bureaucracy, Har- ris-Gershon's search serves as a catalyst for a series of revelations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that range from the unjust policies of the British Man- date to the poignancy of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation. The book culminates in a meeting between the author and Odeh's family in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. Harris-Gershon describes the encounter as a "reckoning" that drove home the realization that Palestinians are. as he writes, "not monsters." The product of a Conser- vative Jewish upbringing in America, Harris-Gershon expresses bemusement that it took an act of terror for him to reach this epiphany. "Growing up, I just thought of Palestinians as another enemy of the Jewish people." he said. "I thought of them as a caricature of evil. And that is sadly common among American Jews." But struggling to un- derstand the motivations of a terrorist and speaking with Odeh's family, Harris- Gershon said, "made me un- derstand their history and experience, their intense suffering, in ways that I had never understood before." Harris-Gershon says that in the wake of the encounter, he feels "transformed" and plans to continue to act on his newfound political be- liefs, writing about Middle East politics and America's role in the region. "It may take the form of a new book in the near fu- ture," he said. "My writing on this issue is definitely going to continue."