Why would a brilliant woman, blessed with familial, material and career success, without any religious animus against Jews or direct experience of oppression, decide to blow herself up and murder a room full of Israeli children?
This question seems to be at the heart of “The Attack,” a beautifully built film by Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, which opened in Israel this past month and in New York in June. The film follows the path of secular Israeli-Arab Amin Jaafari, a highly accomplished doctor living comfortably in Tel Aviv, as he tries to make sense of a shock that comes out of nowhere: His beloved wife, a Christian Palestinian academic named Siham, kills herself and 17 Israelis in a suicide bombing.
After being roughly interviewed by the Israeli police and rehabilitated by Jewish Israeli friends, Jaafari is caught up in his grief and his disbelief that Siham was capable of such a despicable act. His thoughts continually return to the night before the bombing, when he had received a call from Siham, supposedly visiting family in the West Bank, but he had been too busy to pick up. Siham’s suicide note, arriving by mail from Nablus, dispels all of Jaafari’s doubts, however, and he determines to go to Nablus to confront those who led Siham to her death — not to berate them for their choices, but to try and understand hers.