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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

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Author Nathan Thrall speaks about new book on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Gabi Egozi/The Daily Northwestern
Medill professor Peter Slevin moderated a conversation with author Nathan Thrall about Thrall’s new book Monday evening.

Weinberg’s Middle East and North African Studies Program and the Medill School of Journalism hosted author Nathan Thrall to speak about his new book, “A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy,” Monday in the McCormick Foundation Center. Medill Prof. Peter Slevin moderated the event.

Thrall, who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 12 and a half years, was inspired to write the book after hearing about the deadly February 2012 collision between a bus carrying Palestinian children and a semitrailer. Thrall weaves this incident throughout the entirety of the book as he analyzes 75 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What’s really different for me about this book is it’s a work of narrative nonfiction, most of my previous writing was more essayistic, more argumentative (and) more historical,” Thrall said. “This is really a book that’s purely grounded in the perceptions of the characters.”

Weinberg senior and event attendee Rachel Spahn, who majors in MENA Studies, said she attended the event hoping to hear oral accounts of challenges people face in the Middle East and how storytelling can influence people’s understanding of the conflict.

Spahn said she’s had many conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in academic spaces during her college career, but the conflict has now cropped up in conversations outside of school more recently.

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 Israelis, and Israeli bombardments have killed over 10,000 Palestinians since, according to Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

“It’s very helpful to be reminded and remind others that on the other side of these conversations are people and communities and homelands that you’re talking about,” Spahn said.

Thrall said people often make the generalization that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began in 1967. However, he suggested that the tensions began as early as 1882.

Thrall said he believes his book’s sources “felt comfortable to let it all come out” because he is an outsider to both the Israeli and Palestinian communities. He added he wanted to put readers in the shoes of those living through the conflict.

“It felt like a story nobody else was going to tell, and so I just didn’t have qualms (with writing the book),” Thrall said.

Thrall said he hopes to contextualize the conflict for readers who might not know the history behind it and are looking to learn more.

McCormick senior and event attendee Aidan O’Neil said he hopes Thrall’s work can help students have informed conversations about the conflict.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and not a lot of people really know what’s going on, on both sides,” Thrall said. “The fact that we are having these conversations is good.”

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