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The Attack

272 pages

Ammine, a surgeon in a Jerusalem hospital, struggles to cope with the mangled bodies of victims of a suicide bombing in a downtown Jerusalem pizza restaurant. He is harassed, well-meaning, utterly dedicated and professional - and a naturalised Israeli Arab.

When the police pin responsibility the suicide attack on Ammine's wife, he is at first baffled, disbelieving and angry. But his feelings turn to confusion and sorrow when he discovers his wife was indeed behind the attack, as he travels to Nazareth and Gaza, attempting to discover who could have convinced his wife to do such a thing, and why she might have done so. His life, he discovers, is a lie: not only the lie told to him for several years by his wife - a naturalised Arab who slowly became political - but also the lie he has been telling himself, that his place as an Arab in Israeli society is normal: that the intifada is an abberation, that he - educated, civilised, cosmopolitan, with a beautiful house and Jewish friends who come to dinner - is the future of Arabs in Israel.

The result is an inexorable tragedy, the destruction of a good man who does not understand and does not wish to understand the struggles beneath the surface of his life. He is a healer, and believes this absolves him from any involvement in the surrounding 'struggle'; but he learns that to remain neutral is death. The novel offers no solutions: it ends, as it also began, with the Israeli helicopter bombing of a Gaza village to which the doctor has come in his final understanding of his wife's choices. Ammine dies in the attack - which he may have brought upon himself and the other villagers by his high-profile search for 'truth'.

Khadra writes with an urgency and an inevitability which is both terrifying and exciting, and this glimpse into an ordinary world split asunder is compelling, often beautifully written and compulsively readable.

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The Attack