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

by Nathan Thrall

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A powerful study of how a horrendous school bus accident in Palestinian Jerusalem underscored the oppressiveness of Israeli rule. In his second book, following The Only Language They Understand, Thrall, the former director of the Arab-Israeli Project at the International Crisis Group, clearly delineates how the accident that ended the life of Abed Salama’s 5-year-old son, Milad, resulted from many factors both accidental and systemic. Salama’s family lived in the narrow alleys of Dahiyat a-Salaam, a Palestinian neighborhood in Anata, separated by a high wall from greater Jerusalem, which restricted access to hospitals and schools. In February 2012, Milad’s private elementary school, Nour al-Houda, hired a bus company to take its kindergarten class on a field trip to a theme park on the outskirts of town. However, Thrall notes, “the company sent an illegally registered twenty seven year old bus to drive on neglected, congested roads, without proper lighting, a police presence, or a barrier between the lanes of oncoming traffic.” Moreover, in the chaos after the accident, the emergency response was delayed, no one knew which hospitals the children had been taken to, and the victims and responders were largely dependent on who had proper identification to reach the Israeli hospital through the roadblocks. In his deeply sensitive account of the families involved, Thrall delves into the history of the two Palestinian intifadas, in 1987 and 2000, and how the Israeli military’s vise grip around the neighborhoods increased, resulting in the massive wall separating Palestinian neighborhoods and Israeli settlements. The driver of the bus was sentenced to 30 months in prison, “a remarkably lenient punishment for an act of gross negligence that killed seven people.” As the author shows, the true roots of the tragedy, in terms of the separation wall, transit permits, ID, and lack of proper Palestinian schools, were never addressed. A moving, often maddening portrait of the dire life straits of Palestinians in Israel. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.