One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule. This piece in NY Review of Books describes the experience of one Palestinian father after a deadly road crash in the West Bank in 2012, in which a school bus carrying Salama’s son collided with a large truck on its way to an Israeli-owned quarry. This piece explores the long history of how the West Bank came to be first occupied and then widely settled by Israel, creating the conditions that led to this particular human tragedy. This article is free to view through April 4.
By Nathan Thrall | New York Review of Books | Mar 19, 2021
On the day before the accident, Milad Salama could hardly contain his excitement for the kindergarten class trip. “Baba,” he said, addressing his father, Abed, “I want to buy food for the picnic tomorrow.” Abed took his five-and-a-half-year-old son to a nearby convenience store, buying him a bottle of the Israeli orange drink Tapuzina, a tube of Pringles, and a chocolate Kinder Egg, his favorite dessert.
Early the next morning, Milad’s mother, Haifa, helped her fair-skinned, sandy-haired boy into his school uniform: gray pants, a white-collared shirt, and a gray sweater bearing the emblem of his private elementary school, Nour al-Houda, or “light of guidance.” Milad’s nine-year-old brother, Adam, old enough to walk to school on his own, had already left. Milad hurried to finish his breakfast, gathered his lunch and picnic treats, and rushed out to board the school bus. Abed was still in bed.
On most days, Abed worked for the Israeli phone and Internet service provider Bezeq. But that morning, he and his cousin had plans to go to Jericho. They stopped at the nearby butcher’s, in Dahiyat al-Salaam, “neighborhood of peace,” beneath the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The owner, Atef, was a friend of Abed’s, and it was unusual for him not to be at the shop. Abed asked an employee to check where Atef was. Atef lived in a different part of municipal Jerusalem, Kufr Aqab, a dense urban neighborhood of tall apartment towers that, like Dahiyat al-Salaam, is cut off from the rest of the city by an Israeli military checkpoint and a gray twenty-six-foot-high concrete wall. To avoid the daily traffic jams and what are sometimes waits of several hours at the Qalandia checkpoint, Atef drove to his work through a far more circuitous route, following the snaking path of the separation barrier.