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

Nathan Thrall

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Immersive and gripping, an intimate story of a deadly accident outside Jerusalem that unravels a tangle of lives, loves, enmities, and histories over the course of one revealing, heartbreaking day.

Five-year-old Milad Salama is excited for a school trip to a theme park on the outskirts of Jerusalem. On the way, his bus collides with a semitrailer. His father, Abed, gets word of the crash and rushes to the site. The scene is chaos―the children have been taken to different hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank; some are missing, others cannot be identified. Abed sets off on an odyssey to learn Milad’s fate. It is every parent’s worst nightmare, but for Abed it is compounded by the maze of physical, emotional, and bureaucratic obstacles he must navigate because he is Palestinian. He is on the wrong side of the separation wall, holds the wrong ID to pass the military checkpoints, and has the wrong papers to enter the city of Jerusalem. Abed’s quest to find Milad is interwoven with the stories of a cast of Jewish and Palestinian characters whose lives and histories unexpectedly converge.

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama, Nathan Thrall―hailed for his “severe allergy to conventional wisdom” (Time)―offers an indelibly human portrait of the struggle over Israel/Palestine and a new understanding of the tragic history and reality of one of the most contested places on earth.



'A deeply immersive portrait of daily life in Israel and the West Bank' The Best Books to Understand the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Financial Times

'Brims over with just the sort of compassion and understanding that is needed at a time like this … when facts have become weapons in this seemingly endless conflict, this is a book that speaks with deep and authentic truth of ordinary lives trapped in the jaws of history' Observer

A gripping, intimate story of one heartbreaking day in Palestine that reveals lives, loves, enmities, and histories in violent collision

A brilliant and heart-wrenching book that captures the daily tragedy of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation better than any other I have read. An outstanding achievement and a must-read -- Eugene Rogan

Praise for the original NYRB article: I pray that Thrall's article will remind President Joe Biden of the courageous stance he took against apartheid in South Africa as a senator. I hope that it will provide a mirror which shows that the very same type of laws that he opposed in South Africa are now instrumental in oppressing Palestinians, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Beautifully written, even as it shares a devastating truth -- Michelle Alexander

One of the best pieces I have read on Palestine -- J. M. Coetzee

A strong article by Nathan Thrall-a very, very strong article -- Noam Chomsky

Praise for the original NYRB article: Nathan Thrall's heart-wrenching essay lays bare the essential truth of Israel's occupation of the West Bank: Palestinians live under apartheid. And we in the U.S. subsidize this illegal operation to the tune of $3.8 billion a year. 'A Day in the Life of Abed Salama' needs to be read by everyone. Every word, from beginning to end. And then we need to do something about it -- Robin D. G. Kelley

About the Author

Nathan Thrall is the author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine. His writing has appeared in the London Review of BooksGuardianNew York Review of Books, and The New York Times Magazine and has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He spent a decade at the International Crisis Group, where he was Director of the Arab-Israeli Project, and has taught at Bard College, New York. He lives in Jerusalem.


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