In following the fictitious life of Frank Gardner, "Scratching the Surface" exposes, compares, and contrasts the orientations, cultures, and attitudes of people in the Middle East with people in the United States. Frank provides the link among the multitude of events covering the various aspects of life in both the United States and the Middle East during the 1970s and up to the late 1990s.
Frank internalizes the American experience, first as an outsider and a foreign student, then as an American citizen and active participant in the American dream. But when Frank returns to Israel at the most challenging stage of its history, he experiences fear, mistrust, and absence of personal security amidst a world that has spun dangerously out of control.
After surviving a vicious bombing attack in a nearby mall, Frank meets his fate on his way to a peace rally in Tel Aviv.