A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: A Palestine Story by Nathan Thrall - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

Anatomy of an Accident

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: A Palestine Story


Allen Lane 272pp £25 order from our bookshop

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama is an expanded version of an article written for the New York Review of Books that set its author, Nathan Thrall, on the path to becoming a widely admired journalist. The book follows one Palestinian father as he tries, with mounting despair, to discover what has become of his five-year-old son, Milad, following a road accident a decade ago. The events described in the book have, of course, been dwarfed by the horrors currently unfolding in Israel and the Gaza Strip. Thrall does not discuss Hamas or Gaza, and the book went to press long before the attack of 7 October. Nevertheless, his calm and thoughtful account is a reminder of the value of clear-headed analysis in times of crisis.

At 8.45 one February morning in 2012, an ancient, creaky bus carrying a party of children on a school outing in the Jerusalem municipality from the Nour al-Houda kindergarten was struck by an eighteen-wheel, thirty-ton truck. It was raining hard, the truck driver was inexperienced and untrained and had a raft of traffic convictions behind him, and his vehicle careened across the entire width of the road. The bus, which was stationary, was hit so violently that it turned over before a short circuit in the fuse box caused it to catch fire. Strong winds fanned the flames.

The site of the accident was a stretch of road in Area C, which after the Oslo Accords of 1993 remained under the control of the Israelis, whose emergency services, police and soldiers were stationed not far away. For a while, none of them turned up. However, a

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