Hi r/IamA. Several Redditors requested that I do an AMA here after a very successful one several days ago in r/books. So, here I am. Twitter verification

My story of reconciliation is told in my memoir published yesterday by Oneworld Publications – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

This review does an excellent job of giving an overview.

Very briefly, here’s a quick sketch of my story:

In the summer of 2002, during historic cease-fire negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, a bomb ripped through a Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem. My wife was hurled across the room, her body burned and pierced by shrapnel, the friends with whom she was sitting killed instantly.

The bombing sent me on a psychological journey which, years later, led me to East Jerusalem and the family of the Hamas terrorist who set everything in motion.

Not out of revenge. Out of desperation.

This is the story of my attempt to heal by understanding my ‘enemy’ – an enemy who unprecedentedly expressed remorse upon being captured by Israeli police. It’s the story of reconciliation between an American Jew and the Palestinian family of the perpetrator. And it’s the story of digging, of unearthing shadowy decisions made by Israel which undermined a historic cease-fire attempt by Palestinians just days before the Hebrew University attack.

Part literary memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book confronts not just what it takes for someone like myself to overcome a personal trauma, but how reconciliation has the power to help Palestinians and Israelis overcome a conflict which must end.

Reactions to the book have been fairly positive so far, but there have been those who have called me “anti-Semitic” and a “self-hating Jew” for my writing and this journey.

Please ask me about anything. Really.

tl;dr: I wrote a book. Wanna ask me a question or call me a name? Go for it.

Comments: 962 • Responses: 90  • Date: 

woof2601211 karma

Originally a Palestinian here, first I would like to say that I'm really sorry for what happened to your wife and I believe that any unnecessary violence should be stopped. I'm interested to know how you think this could be resolved. We all want this issue resolved but with Israel not wanting to lose anything and Palestinians having nothing to lose, how do you think they can get to an agreement?

Also, how is your wife doing now?

twiddling_my_thumbs195 karma

Thank you so much for your comment and kind words.

Honestly, I think one thing could move us toward a resolution quicker than anything: 1) the United States decides to wield its enormous influence and compel Israel to abandon its failed geo-political policies. A simple, No more $3 billion a year for you until you freeze settlements and end the occupation would change things dramatically. 2) Arab states do similarly on their end, offering Palestinians with large economic incentives for reconciliation and political resolution with Israel.

Obviously, there are intense political obstacles in every arena for such to happen. However, it's really the only route. It does not appear that Israel is capable of doing this on its own.

Of course, we're talking two states here. What we are really moving toward is a single, bi-national state. Quite honestly, right-wing Israelis are moving us toward this quicker than anyone. And if that ends up being the resolution, it will either be a fully democratic, single state or full-fledged apartheid.

woof260155 karma

Interesting point. I really do wish that the US does some kind of economic sanction until Israel abides by international law but the American government isn't much for displeasing Israelis as it is it's only strong ally in the region that it is extremely attracted to. As for the Arab states, other than Jordan and Egypt, they are not on good terms with Israel so I don't see them trying to force Palestinians into peace talks.

I also believe that outside intervention is not that good of a solution, it's forcing peace rather than wanting peace, which could backlash miserably. The anger and hatred needs to go away before they could coexist.

twiddling_my_thumbs41 karma

I agree with you that outside brokering of peace could have negative consequences.

However, this is a situation in which I don't see a possible resolution unless both parties are compelled by outside forces to, well, work towards their long-term national interests.

PoisonTaffy23 karma

I'm an Israeli and I'll even welcome economic sanctions if they are designed to push my retard government to an honest negotiation process to end this tragic conflict.

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

Some of my Israeli friends feel similarly, though I don't think that would be the normative view in Israel. Agreed?

PoisonTaffy7 karma

I'd say there's still a majority that generally wants a two state solution. Even moderate right wing parties like likud have to at least pretend to be peace seekers. But since most of us are living comfortably and don't feel the pressure of the occupation, we're reluctant to pay major prices or take big risks to achieve it.

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

Sounds spot-on to me, and you should know better than I.

sdgfsvzvxf4 karma

Is it any wonder why you get called a self hating Jew? This post looks identical to most posts from the type of "American Jew" who has a Jewish relative and suddenly sees themselves as an expert on Israel. It usually goes like this... "as a Jew... <insert statement demonstrating shitty understanding of situation here>".

Honestly, I think one thing could move us toward a resolution quicker than anything: 1) the United States decides to wield its enormous influence and compel Israel to abandon its failed geo-political policies. A simple, No more $3 billion a year for you until you freeze settlements and end the occupation

Right, so you think this is the key to moving forward... Doing exactly what the PA and Palestinians have been trying to do for years, force concessions out of Israel without giving anything in return.

You think this is what will work as opposed to eliminating the culture of rejecting normalization, hatred, death and terror that runs rife through the Palestinian national psyche -- something which filters through every echelon of their society, old and young from terror summer camps to children's TV shows calling for the deaths of Israelis -- and don't give me any retarded shit about Israeli antics causing this culture, this culture predates any occupation, checkpoint or blockade -- even the modern state of Israel itself. The occupation etc are a direct consequence of the Palestinian/Arab violence, they are not the cause of it.

You demonstrate a pitiful lack of understanding of the situation and the driving factors behind Palestinian and indeed the wider Arab world's actions if even one iota of you genuinely believes that if Israel just up and left the West Bank and promised not to expand on any settlements, everything would be okay. I don't even know where to begin in debunking that idiotic notion, it's face palm worthy.

2) Arab states do similarly on their end, offering Palestinians with large economic incentives for reconciliation and political resolution with Israel.

Typical. The US/Israel = root of all evil, must stop being evil. Palestinians = not responsible for their own actions, forced to do everything they do out of desperation, everybody must feel sorry for them.

Can't you see the problem here? You demand that Israel be called a naughty boy and have money taken from it and in return, you propose that Palestinians be given money.

Why not treat them how you want Israel to be treated? Why not propose that US & European aid (because the Arab states often promise them money but never follow through with it) be withheld until the Palestinians abandon the "struggle" (a euphemism for their military/economic/diplomatic war) against Israel -- no, no! Poor Palestinians, you say "ok we accept Israel" and we'll lavish you with more money than we already give you. Are you aware that Palestinians receive more international aid per head than any other country, yes, including all of those African nations ravaged by poverty etc -- let's give them more. Let's give them more money to spend on paying salaries to convicted terrorists!

It does not appear that Israel is capable of doing this on its own.

What was I saying about you viewing Israel as the root of all evil and absolving Palestinians of responsibility. You think Israel isn't capable of this? Right, okay, because it's not like the Palestinians have been offered relatively great deals (despite being the losing aggressor which entitles them to fuck all) from the historical partition plans to 94%+ of the West Bank etc -- it is they who are not capable of doing it on their own. Their leadership is weak and corrupt and their whole culture, national identity suddenly becomes irrelevant because their identity was born purely to oppose Israel.

And if that ends up being the resolution, it will either be a fully democratic, single state or full-fledged apartheid.

I was waiting for you to bring up apartheid. I can't even be bothered, I've lost the will at this point. You are disconnected from reality.

Oh and as you know, it was a Hamas bombing that almost killed your wife. Question, based on the known ideology of Hamas, do you believe that they blew up the cafeteria because a) Israeli presence in the West Bank or b) as stated, they define the very existence of Israel as an occupation of Palestinian land and as such, see armed struggle (terrorism) as the only means for liberating the land?

What you want to do is severely compromise Israel's security, you want them to make grand gestures in good faith and forgive the pun, hope it doesn't blow up in their face. Oh wait, they did that when they disengaged from Gaza and look where that got them.

Are you aware that whilst your wife's friends were having their body parts picked up off of the floor, thousands were celebrating in Gaza? If your wife had have actually died, if for example, your wife was a victim of the Mercaz HaRav massacre, would you still seek "reconciliation", would you try to understand why these lunatics killed your wife?

twiddling_my_thumbs5 karma

This is certainly the longest defense of me being a "self-hating Jew" I've ever seen.

I'll give you credit for that.

NumberOneAsshole2 karma

/u/woof2601 asks you how your wife is doing now and you completely ignored that. You instead talk only about your political view on this matter. I get the feeling that you couldn't give a fuck less about your wife and more about your own political views.

So, as much as it sucks that your wife was hurt, I think you're exploiting her to push your own thoughts on this subject.

twiddling_my_thumbs4 karma

Sorry -- I may have missed parts of people's questions as I'm doing my best to answer as much as possible.

I've responded elsewhere that my wife is 100% recovered and is doing amazing.

nancylikestoreddit150 karma

That title is fucking rough, dude.

twiddling_my_thumbs150 karma

I know. I know.

It was originally, "Shrapnel."

Margaret_Atwood29 karma

Honestly I don't think your current title is so bad. It stands out, and piques curiosity. If I saw "Shrapnel" in the book store I probably would have overlooked it.

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

Thanks. I know some have reacted strongly. Understandably so.

nancylikestoreddit-25 karma

I like Shrapnel better. It's not shoving terrorism down your throat like the actual title does.

twiddling_my_thumbs24 karma

I hear you, and respect that perspective. We had to change the title due to another book being published under that name.

And so the long, descriptive one, which was actually the first line of my pitch to my publisher.

But yeah, I hear your critique.

Imabigdiva127 karma

What were your immediate feelings when you first met the family?

twiddling_my_thumbs256 karma

My immediate feeling, after the fear that had plagued me up to the meeting, was pure relief.

The moment I met them, they were gentle and kind. I was ushered into a beautiful room, served tea, and treated like an honored guest.

Obviously, the emotions, and the conversation, were intense -- but my immediate feeling was of a great weight being lifted.

stoltestekriger60 karma

Thanks for your book and this AMA.

Do you think that your personal experience with your "enemies" is something that can be replicated on a group or maybe a national scale?

twiddling_my_thumbs99 karma

Thanks for the question.

To answer: absolutely. At the group level, there are amazing meetings that happen all the time. In this arena, there is something called The Bereaved Families Forum, in which Palestinians and Israelis who have lost children come together to meet each other.

TinyLebowski26 karma

I believe it will work with smaller groups, but with nations? Not likely. People can be mature, wise and forgiving. Nations generally can't, since changing long-standing traditions makes it hard to get re-elected. When was the last time a nation decided not to retaliate an attack because it only would escalate the conflict?

twiddling_my_thumbs61 karma

South Africa.

Rare, but there is precedent.

Edit: here's a link some below have offered that gives a good overview of South Africa's TRC process. Thanks everyone!

Imabigdiva43 karma

That is incredible! Thank you for doing this AMA. I have not read your book, but I will. What an amazingly brave and open minded thing to do.

twiddling_my_thumbs33 karma

Thank you. Very kind words.

p6r6noi688 karma

It sounds like you were very forgiving in this situation, which I personally love! Did you ever learn why the attacker became remorseful for his actions?

twiddling_my_thumbs220 karma

I was never able to meet with him personally. Though his family offered many reasons.

As for forgiveness, I want to be clear that I did not forgive him. I reconciled with the family. They are two important, but different, things.

getyrsmel86 karma

How does your wife feel about all this? She was affected even more than you were.

twiddling_my_thumbs115 karma

So, I want to answer in two ways.

  • First, she was incredibly supportive while wanting no part of it. This was my process, and not hers, having already achieved a measure of healing from therapy.

  • Second, yes, she was the primary victim, and yes, she was both physically and emotionally affected. However, the term "more" here may not be accurate from a psychological perspective. I was, in short, very fucked up for a very long time afterward. Emotionally, I suffered longer than she did, and a part of this is due to the fact that, for many years, I didn't give myself the right to call myself a victim. However, secondary victimhood is real -- it's something I treat in detail in the book. And once I learned this -- once I learned that there are times when, say, journalists can sometimes suffer worse psychic symptoms than those subjects they cover in war-torn regions, I gave myself license to be a victim as well.

Edit: I didn't mean to imply that I suffered "more" emotionally than her. I was just fucked up emotionally longer than she was -- at least, with regard to suffering from PTSD symptoms -- because it took me so long to even admit that I needed help. Physically, she suffered greatly -- more than I'll ever truly understand. Her strength was, and is, unimaginable. I'm grateful that she's alive.


What were the reasons?

twiddling_my_thumbs86 karma

This is one of the narrative tensions in the book: my struggle with Israel's prison service.

He's in a maximum security prison, and the only way for a prisoner to be allowed a visitor is for that prisoner to agree to such a meeting. Now, the family -- which met with him once a month briefly -- approached him on my behalf, and they insisted that he agreed to the meeting, and that he wanted to meet.

Israel's prison service said otherwise, and declined.

I have no doubt the family was being honest. What is uncertain is whether it was Israel's prison service that was giving me a convenient answer, or whether Mohammad was not being honest with his family.


Thanks for the reply. But the question I was looking for an answer to was this:

Did you ever learn why the attacker became remorseful for his actions?

twiddling_my_thumbs29 karma

Ah. I was never able to meet him personally. Though in the AP article in which I found his expression of remorse, he was reported to have said "he was sorry that so many people died in the attack."

I_AM_AT_WORK_NOW_58 karma

"he was sorry that so many people died in the attack."

Not to be rude, but what the fuck did he expect? Do you buy that line?

gehacktbal53 karma

It's called regret. Sometimes, people don't fully grasp the consequences of ther actions untill afterwards.

I'm not saying he wasn't stupid or that he was in his right to kill other people. I'm just saying that it is not impossible that he has changed his mind afterwards. Being in a prison and, most importantly, being responsible for the death of people, and for the suffering of their families, are pretty life-changing experiences.

So I certainly buy that this is something that can be true. Not that it 100% sure, I don't know it, but it is certainly possible.

twiddling_my_thumbs22 karma

Of course, the possibilities are open-ended as to whether his expression of remorse was true or not.

That's part of what started me on this journey to find out. However, based upon many factors covered in the book -- including the fact that his background simply didn't fit any profile for being a member of Hamas -- it's certainly possilbe that he was truly remorseful.

ClintonHarvey17 karma

I don't think you should forgive him. I think you'd find closure in meeting him, but certainly not forgiving him.

His family is a different story, I'm sure they, as you, find some sort of solace in meeting you, and you offering forgiveness. It was not their fault, families can only control and positively influence other members of the family so much, I'm glad you've taken this journey, and hope that I am one day, able to be as good of a person as you.

twiddling_my_thumbs10 karma

Thanks for this. I agree with almost every word, at least as it pertains to my perspective and situation.

199nein41 karma

Have you ever heard of the book "Wildflowers in the median"? It's an incredible short book by Agnes Fury that is a compendium of the letters and poems sent back and forth between the woman and the murderer her daughter and grandchild. I've actually met her, and her story is extremely touching. She is an advocate for restorative justice rather than retribution. I think you and her might have some things in common.

Edit: Left out a couple of words. Opps.

twiddling_my_thumbs28 karma

I never have, but thanks for the suggestion. I just looked it up, and is something I'm interested in reading.

Here's the link: Wildflowers in the Median

199nein15 karma

You should. She has received some negativity as well because of her stance as I recall. A lot of people don't understand how you can learn to not forgive the actions of a person but still learn to see value and eventually learn to forgive that person. I'm glad you were able to take your journey of exploration into the lives of those on the other side of the trauma you and your family have experienced. It's a very rare ability and I commend you for it.

Edit: A word and some syntax.

twiddling_my_thumbs23 karma

For many, restorative justice is about healing. I know that, before I had this compulsion to meet with the Odeh family, I admit that I looked upon those who met with their perpetrators as, well, strange.

Now, after having gone through this journey, I understand personally the power of reconciliation. And politically, I understand it as a microcosm for the type of dialogue which could increase empathy on both sides. An increase that could move public opinion. And thus move policy.

theirway1131 karma


twiddling_my_thumbs22 karma

First, you should read my answer here, which is a bit broader.

If we're talking two states, '67 borders with land swaps, but a removal of large swaths of the settlements. Reconciliation would also be needed between Gaza and WB -- no easy task. Refugees is the single, most-difficult issue, in my opinion.

And J Street is certainly much improved when compared with AIPAC, but has its flaws. (In short: it must still cater to a relatively conservative Jewish community on the issue of Israel.)

Wiggles1143 karma

So basically you're saying Israel will have to be forced to achieve peace with the Palestinians but you have no idea what the compromise should look like - no easy solution to connecting Gaza-WB, refugees, Jerusalem, etc.

twiddling_my_thumbs1 karma

If you read my answer in the linked comment above, I give a bit fuller of an idea. However, refugees is in my mind the most difficult issue on the table to solve.

iamagainstit3 karma

With the current divide between the east bank and the Gaza Strip, do you think a three state solution might be an option? Palestine (the West Bank), Israel, and Gaza? Such a solution might allow the Palestinian authority to reconcile with Israel without Hamas' more extremist ways interfering.

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

This is a potential that simply isn't discussed enough. While I don't think such a solution will ever materialize, it certainly (from a geographic perspective) is logical.

Not that I would be in favor, necessarily, of such a solution. Though it is one that deserves to be explored more.

fonzie_says_aaayyy28 karma

I suppose I don't really have a question, but I'm glad to now know about your book. I, too, studied abroad at Hebrew U during a year of intense violence. The entire time, I felt utterly alone in my feelings about the occupation, wondering how so many other foreign students and North American expats could be so seemingly unaware that Palestinian hostilities might possibly stem from having ones rights and land stolen from under them. I'd be able to write more (and more eloquently) were I not typing on my phone, but I look forward to reading your book. Thank you!

twiddling_my_thumbs15 karma

Thanks for your comment. I wonder if we were at HU at the same time.

fonzie_says_aaayyy12 karma

I was there in the mid-90's, a bit earlier than you.

twiddling_my_thumbs15 karma

Yep. I remember that time as well, though from afar, and from a different perspective than one I have now. But a difficult time politically in Israel, for sure.

kralcleahcim24 karma

One particular review of your memoir pointed out that your book quickly became seen as a form of "political journalism," especially within the Jewish-American community. Are you comfortable with your work being classified as such?

It seems that maybe some have confused the book's intense personal realizations of the overlooked human involvement in a conflict as tense as the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic as a 'political statement'.

twiddling_my_thumbs23 karma

This is a fantastic question.

While this is a personal narrative of my reconciliation, and was motivated initially as an attempt to heal (a selfish journey), the political and personal naturally fused together.

And to be honest, I've embraced that fusion. The book itself has political parts to it. And while it's a work of art (I hope at least), it would be a lie if I didn't also think of it as a work of artistic activism.

kralcleahcim15 karma

Awesome! But, I just hope that you won't continue to think that authoring the book as an attempt to heal was wholly selfish, and if you do you can always take comfort in the fact that its product is entirely selfless. In recounting your experience, your memoir and the messages that your readers will take from it will benefit each of them in understanding the harsh, overlooked human reality of deadly conflict in the world... making families like the one you bravely met human again. And that extends beyond the borders of Israel and Palestine.

twiddling_my_thumbs9 karma

Thanks for the kind note. I appreciate it.

I do want to say that the writing of the book wasn't an act of therapy -- of healing -- itself. By the time I began writing it, the actual act of reconciliation had alleviated much of my symptoms.

The writing was more about art and craft -- trying to create something beautiful out of something tragic.

And it's a work of activism.

willbradley4 karma

Is your activism targeted more toward Jews or Palestinians? In other words while writing the book I'm sure you had an audience in mind; who were you speaking to?

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

The U.S. Jewish community in particular, and Americans more broadly.

hppytreefriends24 karma

I'm so glad to see a post like this. Truly. Instead of filling your soul with hate, you tried to understand your "enemy." My condolences to your wife and family. A few questions. 1) How're you doing now? 2) How's the beautiful wife doing? 3) Did you meet directly with him and his family or just his family? 4) What internal enlightenments have you reached from this experience?

Again thank you for doing this AMA, glad to see a flower growing out of this desert.

twiddling_my_thumbs21 karma

Thanks so much. To answer: 1) I'm doing really well; 2) She's amazing and healthy; 3) Just the family; 4) I'd have to think about this deeply before answering. I'm not a religious person, per se, though I have come to some very meaningful insights about the nature of trauma, healing, and the power of human relationships to overcome powerful fears.

Let me think more about this.

levantman17 karma


twiddling_my_thumbs57 karma

I don't know if I can separate it into so many parts, though regarding my view of Palestinians, I may have answered this in another comment. Here's what I wrote:

I'm embarrassed to admit that, before I engaged in this process, I only thought of Palestinians as a caricature of evil. I knew nothing about them, and had never considered their humanity. I'm afraid this is normative in the American Jewish community. However, my research about Palestinian history, my sudden understanding of the true nature of the occupation, and my meeting of the family brought me to understand more fully both their humanity and the trajectory of their experience as a people. In short, they became real, as opposed to a fictitious representation of evil.

idefix_the_dog33 karma

I only thought of Palestinians as a caricature of evil. I knew nothing about them, and had never considered their humanity. I'm afraid this is normative in the American Jewish community.

I find this alarming, given the history of the Jewish people (and no, not just the Holocaust). I hope and believe your book will make a difference. Truly, you must be a good human being.

twiddling_my_thumbs11 karma

Thank you so much for the kind words.

I admit that part of my motivation in writing this book is to do exactly this: show the humanity of Palestinians to those in America (Jews included) who only know them through media coverage of conflict.

Peter Beinart just wrote a fascinating article in the NYTBR called "The American Jewish Cocoon" in which he takes the American Jewish community to task for ignoring Palestinians as a people. It's a great read!

justabump12 karma

I was really appreciating your AMA, and you're unique and thoughtful perspective until this point. I respectfully ask that before you tar and feather another group (i.e., American Jews) as a monolithic, phobic group unwilling to consider the Palestinian other, you consider injecting a little lore nuance and thought. The "norm" is in reality a similarly complex, yet distant perspective on things. I know, I am the Rabbi of a vey large community of very diverse American Jews.

twiddling_my_thumbs4 karma

I respect your response, and did not intend to suggest that there is not variance and diversity, which obviously there is.

Thank you for infusing the needed nuance.

samarobryn15 karma

Thanks for this AMA and for writing about your experiences. How did you feel about some of the negative feedback you received? What was the strangest or scariest feedback?

twiddling_my_thumbs39 karma

I expected that there would be those who disagree with my politics who would try to delegitimize myself or the book by calling me "anti-Semitic" or a "self-hating Jew."

The personal attacks don't really bother me. What bothers me is this phenomenon of using false anti-Semitism smears as a way to try to stifle debate. The smear has real power, even though it's employed with such frequency that it has diluted what is still a very real, very dangerous prejudice.

You can see some choice ones in the comments to this review.

Here is the tamest I could find:

This guy is just pimping out his wife's ordeal in order to make money the only way he knows how: pandering to the anti-Jewish population by whitewashing the savages who want to kill all the Jews, including me and my family. I would spit in his face after I slapped him silly if I ever got the chance and not regret it. He is scum.

ButterpantsMom13 karma

I like you for it. Forgiveness is so important.

twiddling_my_thumbs12 karma

Thank you.

I do want to clarify that, while I engaged in an important reconciliation process, I did not actually forgive the perpetrator. I never met him.

Reconciliation and forgiveness are two important, but different, things.

sadcoffee3 karma

What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Honest question, not being a troll. I just always thought your forgave, or you didn't.

twiddling_my_thumbs5 karma

It's a fantastic question. Reconciliation is more 'conflict transformation' -- the ability for people in conflict to come together, work on creating a dialogue and mutual understanding such that the conflict can be resolved.

It doesn't always involve forgiveness. More understanding and acceptance (though forgiveness certainly often plays a part of it).

I0n5O27RjTsd11 karma

What did you buy them?

twiddling_my_thumbs38 karma

The buying was such a strange experience. I knew I wanted to bring a gift as a kind gesture -- we were both scared by the prospect of the meeting, despite pushing forward. (They admitted they were scared of what my true intentions might be.)

And so I found myself in a Toys R Us in Jerusalem, looking at stupid toys with American pop culture symbols everywhere. So, for the young girl, I bought a simple stencil set, something devoid of princesses and such. For the boy, a Rubik's Cube. I even remember, while picking it out, thinking, Yes, a puzzle seems appropriate as a metaphor.

icktipus10 karma

How did family/friends react when you told them what your plans were? Also, thank you for doing this IAMA. I wish that I had the opportunity to read your book before asking you questions. :(

twiddling_my_thumbs19 karma

Thanks so much for the question. Other than my wife, who was supportive and simultaneously scared, I didn't tell family members until after I had gone through with it. After the fact, they were supportive. And while my wife was as well, this was not her process, and she wanted to be disengaged from it.

As for friends, their reactions were divergent. Some were incredibly supportive (and still are), and some still love me while being very much opposed to the book and my politics.

greengreen9959 karma

Have you lost any of your Jewish friends because of your views. As an American Jew myself I am almost frightened to defend Palestine/Palestinians, especially around my family. Any advice?

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

I have not. Though some friends have really struggled with some of my political views.

That said, those who were truly friends before have remained dear to me.

forget_gto9 karma


twiddling_my_thumbs9 karma

No, I'm American, and live in the States. We lived in Israel from 2000-2003.

gintonicisntwater6 karma

Would you back? Why did you leave?

twiddling_my_thumbs9 karma

We were there specifically to study -- MA degrees at Hebrew University, as well as traditional learning at an egalitarian yeshiva called Pardes.

We always intended to return to the States.

Would I go back again? If money and circumstance allowed, yes.

trinityalpha8 karma

I would just like to say that this has been extremely interesting! Thank you for talking about this. Shockingly as an American I first learned about this four years ago in college. Our school had an entire course on the conflict and we had a presentation on the Palestinian side and what they go through. Professors started openly arguing about which side was wrong or right and calling each other out in front of hundreds of students. Obviously this is a huge topic for debate. My point being that you have just held an extremely civilized conversation about a very volitile subject and you managed it with grace and respect. (With the exception of that one guy and that was him not you). Anyway thank you very much. Also I'm on a mobile device so I apologize for mistakes.

twiddling_my_thumbs5 karma

I'm glad it's been interesting! I appreciate your kind words. The questions here have been, for the most part, quite reasoned and thoughtful for what is, indeed, a volatile topic.

I admit I was scared to do a AMA here -- a few who asked me to post here also told me to bring my thick skin.

But this has been lovely. I'm truly enjoying it.

totallyarogue8 karma

How is your wife doing?

Really interesting AMA, thanks for doing it.

twiddling_my_thumbs19 karma

Thanks so much. She's 100% recovered physically.

kralcleahcim7 karma

For you, what was the most powerful dispelling of a misconception you held that you experienced while/after making your journey?

edit - One more if you don't mind. If there is one single point that you hope the reader might take from your memoir, what would it be?

twiddling_my_thumbs19 karma

I forgot to mention that, after the bombing, when my wife and I returned to the States, I began to suffer from intense PTSD-like symptoms. When therapy failed me, I decided to confront the bombing as a way to overcome it.

When I did, I learned the perpetrator, Mohammad Odeh, had said, "I'm sorry" to Israeli authorities upon his capture. And when I learned this, I knew I would go back to Israel/Palestine to try and understand how or why this could have happened.

All this led me to try to understand a Palestinian people I had never bothered to consider.

twiddling_my_thumbs13 karma

These are two excellent questions.

  • 1) I'm embarrassed to admit that, before I engaged in this process, I only thought of Palestinians as a caricature of evil. I knew nothing about them, and had never considered their humanity. I'm afraid this is normative in the American Jewish community. However, my research about Palestinian history, my sudden understanding of the true nature of the occupation, and my meeting of the family brought me to understand more fully both their humanity and the trajectory of their experience as a people. In short, they became real, as opposed to a fictitious representation of evil.

  • 2) I suppose my hope is that this book reveals not just what it can take for someone like myself to overcome a personal trauma, but how reconciliation can help Israelis and Palestinian overcome a conflict that must end.

chilldude247 karma


twiddling_my_thumbs14 karma

To understand them. And by extension, Mohammad.

chilldude244 karma


twiddling_my_thumbs31 karma

I was suffering intensely from PTSD-like symptoms when we returned to the States. As the secondary victim -- and this, I've learned, happens often with secondary victims -- I was unable to recover via traditional methods.

Therapy didn't work.

And so, as an act of desperation, I tried learning about the attack as a way to move beyond it. And in doing so, when I learned that Mohammad had expressed remorse for what he'd done, I knew intuitively that only through understanding might I 'recover.'

Understanding him. Understanding Palestinians -- their history and experience.

And so I met them. To reconcile. To understand.

deadmanRise7 karma

It must be asked: what did you buy the children of the terrorist who tried to kill your wife?

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

Great question. Just answered it above.

icktipus7 karma

How long did you end up spending with the family? And how long did it take until you decided to contact the family, and to arrange the meeting?

twiddling_my_thumbs11 karma

I spent about 2-3 hours in their home. We talked for quite a bit.

The process of the meeting was very involved. Once I decided that I was going to attempt it, a series of peace activists, translators, and government officials in the region worked to arrange it. A year process.

The bombing happened in 2002. I didn't come to decide upon this journey until 2007, after I'd learned of the perpetrator's expression of remorse. A year later, I was in their living room sipping tea.

icktipus10 karma

Wow, that's absolutely crazy, and wonderful. When you decided to attempt it, who did you have to contact to arrange it? Also, how did the other family (seem to feel) after the meeting? Did they read your memoir too?

twiddling_my_thumbs14 karma

When the first thought surfaced -- You're going to try to meet this guy or his family, aren't you? -- I started emailing all types of figures who I thought might be able to help. Journalists. Professors. Politicians.

But it was the peace activists who responded immediately, and who helped forge all my connections.

The other family was very appreciative of the meeting -- we both agreed it was important. This is a moderate, middle-class family who had no idea that Mohammad had joined Hamas. They just didn't know.

And they were traumatized by what happened as well. Obviously in much different ways.

icktipus4 karma

Also, thank you for responding to my questions. I definitely will read your book when I get the chance.

twiddling_my_thumbs7 karma

Thanks. If you do, please tell me what you think. I'd love to know.

ballershotcaller20in6 karma

When initially meeting the family of your "enemy" did they know that you were one of the victims' husband?

How did your wife feel about you seeking out and meeting with the family of the Hamas terrorists - has her experience of them through you been very different? I am basically, curious as to how she felt about you reconciling with this family?

Thanks for your time, and this AMA.

twiddling_my_thumbs13 karma

Good questions.

First, they did know I was the husband of a victim. A letter was delivered to them, from me, in which I explained who I was and my intentions.

Second, my wife was supportive, but not at all involved. She had her own recovery process (emotionally) via therapy, and didn't want to engage in this. But she saw how I was suffering, and supported my efforts, even though they scared her.

drlala6 karma

Not a question but wanted to say thank you. It takes great self awareness to write of your own life and I wish you all the best.

twiddling_my_thumbs4 karma

Cheers for the kind words.

deadmanRise6 karma

What were you expecting just before you met the family? How did the reality match up with or differ from your expectations?

twiddling_my_thumbs9 karma

I was terrified before I went to meet them. In the book, there are very intense moments in which a series of unexpected individuals infuse me with fear -- convincing me that I am putting my life at risk.

So I didn't know exactly what to expect. I suppose the reality of their warmth, kindness and sincerity was what I had hoped for, but didn't expect.

scootinNjanglin6 karma

With the Jewish people being a historically close knit society, how has this affected your interaction with Jewish family, friends, or acquaintances? I'm sure there are plenty of people that aren't too approving of your actions, as you mentioned. How do you deal with this?

twiddling_my_thumbs5 karma

This is a great question. At this stage, the only personal interactions I've had have been fully positive, while all of my negative interactions have been online.

However, I know that this will change, particularly as I travel for the book and make appearances. When that happens, I sense I'll have a different answer for you.

Wookiecookie1015 karma

I really wish this was getting more attention. I will definitely be picking up a copy. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

Thank you. Please tel me what you think if you indeed read it.

RufusStJames5 karma

Balls the size of eggplants, this one.

Seriously, to go to them with reconciliation in mind takes a far bigger man than I'd call myself. Good for you.

twiddling_my_thumbs4 karma


Should I mention here that I break out in a cold sweat and nearly pass out from having my blood taken?

DevilishRogue5 karma

How did the parents of the terrorist feel about their sons actions?

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

They did not know he was involved, and were horrified.

icameforthecookies5 karma

This could be AMA of the year. Wow.

twiddling_my_thumbs24 karma

Ha - thanks for the kindness. It seems the upvote gods disagree, though I'm happy about all of these amazing, positive questions. Really happy.

notcolinfirth4 karma

First of all, thanks for doing this. This entire process is incredibly brave, especially being able to move past the initial feelings of anger and resentment.

I was hoping to hear about the timeline of events from the bombing to actually being able to meet the family. Also, what did you do to prepare yourself for them? Or was everything very spur-of-the-moment?

twiddling_my_thumbs4 karma

Thanks for the questions. A quick timeline: 2002 - bombing / 2006 - I learn of Odeh's remorse / 2007 - complicated process of arranging meeting with family and meeting with family.

Obviously, I left out dozens of interesting moments, but that's the timeframe here, approximately.

PrivilegeCheckmate4 karma

Does the bulk of the general population of Israel actually conflate criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism or is it just a few whack jobs? What I mean is, if you live/travel to Israel, are you going to bump up against these people all day every day or is it a rarity?

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

My experience (and there are others who might disagree with me) is that you are much more likely to find this type of thing in the U.S. than you are in Israel.

Well-known Israeli newspaper columnists, who are far more critical than I am of Israeli policies, would be considered anti-Semitic by the 'whack jobs' standards.

Lybertine4 karma

Could you explain this shadowy undermining? because on face value, it seems that the bombing would be the deal breaker here.

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

For this, due to the long narrative and the research involved, I'm going to have to answer "read the book."

There is an entire section of the book that chronicles the history immediately preceding the attack, and the 'shadowy decisions' made of which I reference.

Lybertine5 karma

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I understand it is obviously a complicated matter and not easily summed up in a quick response. I hope to get a chance to take a look at it.

Is the ceasefire initiative you are referring to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002? Because if so, I was under the impression that it is widely held that that initiative lost footing due to the Passover Massacre of March, 2002.

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

No -- this was something behind closed doors and unprecedented.

ecominded3 karma

I dont really have a question but just wanted to say thanks for at least bringing something like this up for discussion. I studied abroad at Hebrew U and know well of this incident. I am an American Jew (or Jewish American, I dont make a distinction) who was brought up to be a zionist of sorts, and that I still am. However, I am a free thinker and have my own, more left leaning, opinions on the issues but which I would bring up now since I dont feel this is the forum for it. I do want to mention, though, the documentary 5 Broken Cameras which I think does a great job of giving those who oppose settlement freezes a look at the other side. I have never had the chance to really hear and see what the other side has to live with and that film gave me more than I could ask for.

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

Broken Cameras is amazing.

liesthroughhisteeth3 karma

You are a much better man than I Gunga Din. I wish you peace.

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma


eladivine3 karma

Hey mate, thank you for this AMA. I lived in Jerusalem for quite some time and I love it, and I read a lot of your answers so I wont repeat.

Are you still living in Jerusalem? Did you always? (Elaborate if you may)

What are your feelings towards Israel as a nation and as a people?

Where is your favorite Hummus spot? (Abu gosh obviously lol)

cheers and easy Yom Kippur.

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

Hey! I'm living in America now -- we were studying and living in Jerusalem at the time. From 2000-2003.

And my favorite Hummus spot? Too many to count. I'm hungry just thinking about it.

Have an easy Yom Kippur.

altxatu3 karma

Why would people hate you for this?

twiddling_my_thumbs3 karma

Fear and hate are closely related emotions. Many people are afraid of my politics -- of seeing the humanity of the other side -- and so hate me for it.

altxatu2 karma

Well that's silly. We're all people.

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

I know, right?

VaginaBaconKittens3 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, I grew up over in the Middle East, and was shown first hand hatred towards the Israeli State. It wasn't until coming back to the US, that I got both sides of the story. Now I just support the people, of both Israel and Palestine, who can come together in peace and harmony.
In the end, what has this journey accomplished for you/your family? Has your opinion changed drastically for any side?

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

For me, it's personally led me to a place of healing. Politically, as I've noted elsewhere (I think), this experience has made me much more informed and progressive in my politics.

dberis2 karma

I will ago against the trend here and say that I think your "mission for comprehension and understanding" is in reality just a way to place your own suffering in the center of your families ordeal, reaping thus the admiration for the forbearance you so richly deserve.

This is probably the core of your critiques of Israel as well. I will not say your an antisemite, because obviously you are not one. You're just a drama queen craving attention, a poor man's Noam Chomsky.

twiddling_my_thumbs1 karma

I'm sorry you have this perspective. It's an unfortunate one, but I understand from where it comes.

I've noted above in the comments about my secondary victimhood. I don't want to spend more time justifying it.


macncookies2 karma

Do you think your visit helped relieve the terrorist's (his family's) prejudice against Israelis to some extent?

twiddling_my_thumbs2 karma

I know that they understood, after our meeting, that there are more Jews and Israeli Jews out there who want peace than they had previously thought.

Chethedoctor-6 karma

American here. After reading on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, I've come to the conclusion that the state of Israel is a terrorist state. Why do you disagree?

twiddling_my_thumbs36 karma

Since I haven't made comment on that fact yet, the question "Why do you disagree?" jumps the gun.

I will say this: Israel's occupation is brutal and bloody, with its home demolitions, killing of innocent people, indefinite detentions, suppression of protests, night raids, curfews, road blocks, destruction.

That said, I would not call it a "terrorist state," just as I wouldn't call America a "terrorist state," despite its illegal drone strikes, unfounded wars and killing of too many innocents to mention.

Chethedoctor12 karma

But you still regard Hamas as a terrorist organization?

twiddling_my_thumbs26 karma

I regard Hamas terrorists as terrorists.

Chethedoctor6 karma

I think you are being pedantic but you have the right to and I respect that.

twiddling_my_thumbs20 karma

Thanks. I may be, but I appreciate your understanding and willingness to let this go.

We likely are agreeing to disagree here, and I very much respect your approach.

levantman12 karma

Would you consider Israel an apartheid state?

twiddling_my_thumbs22 karma

Good question. I would consider the term appropriate for what is occurring in the occupied territories. Most Israelis, based on a recent Haaretz poll, would agree with that.

Hell, even the moderate columnist Jeffrey Goldberg thinks it's the right term.

stack_overpriced10 karma

Important to note that Haaretz is a really left-winged paper, and while I was regularly reading it in the past theyve become more and more extreme in their opinions and biased articles.

twiddling_my_thumbs7 karma

It leans left, but the polling outfit did not (from what I remember). Searching for link.

Edit: here's the link. Interestingly, there is an editorial note which now qualifies the article. Still informative.

ambroseburns-6 karma

I respect your personal journey to find peace, but how do you feel knowing that most likely most people in that village want your entire heritage exterminated?

twiddling_my_thumbs25 karma

I would answer by saying that I reject your premise. Most people in East Jerusalem simply want to live good lives free of violence, hatred and conflict.

Your premise of an entire people being interested in genocide is the type of caricature I mentioned in an answer previously.

387pop-16 karma

You willingly settled on occupied, stolen land in a known war zone making you combatants, not civilians, what did you think was going to happen?

Shouldn't the Palestinians be reconciling with the fact you tried to displace them from their homeland and you should be seeking forgiveness from them since settling on stolen land is a violation of international law?

What do you think you'd be saying today if your wife died while perpetuating racist zionism?

twiddling_my_thumbs11 karma

I'll answer by saying this: I'm American, not Israeli.

387pop-9 karma

Maybe on paper. The review says you moved to occupied Al Quds so you definitely went out of your way... plenty of excellent American universities out there that don't require compromising one's conscious or loyalty.

twiddling_my_thumbs6 karma

I lived in Jerusalem, yes. My perspective: East Jerusalem is occupied.

I understand your perspective.

ProgressiveDrivel-4 karma

"Al Quds" is an offensive name used by Muslim colonizers to refer to the Jewish city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem has been a Jewish capital for 1000 years before the prophet Muhammad. Please don't refer to Jerusalem with a name given by the Muslim occupants and colonial tyrants.

twiddling_my_thumbs8 karma

I'm going to (try) to stop this here and say, take it outside, please.

Different perspectives, different names. I'm not interested in a fight. I'd rather answer good questions.

ProgressiveDrivel-12 karma

I've asked you a question in the other comment. Do you agree that all Israelis are combatants (and not civilians)?

twiddling_my_thumbs11 karma


Though I like your "push poll" style of questioning. Cute.