Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

2 mornings after the night our world almost ended

An artist's illustration of K2-18 b, an exoplanet which may be covered in water oceans and possess a hydrogen atmosphere. (NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI))

Two mornings after the night the world almost ended, and I’m allowing myself the space to think about Pesach. All the miracles, all the wonders — the devastation, too, — how the Angel of Death shambled toward Egypt like a slow moving beast, and it’s gotten me thinking. How do these stories become so? What real things happened back then that shaped the way we tell them now?

And it’s made me ask: What if life as we know it gets destroyed – records erased – all the little stories and statuses  we share online, and the news fit to print is just wiped out — and all that’s left on our planet is a tiny spark of life — a few humans, some animals — in the desolate wasteland of the apocalypse we are sure to one day make, how will the story of Iran and Israel be told in ten thousand years?

“And then, the the people of the Place of Darkness attacked the people of the  Place of Light with fire from the sky, but the angels from far flung places sent by The Creator who loved the Place of Light were there to shield the people from the fire before it could rain down. And the people of the Place of Light were also strong and mighty and they prevailed on that night, too, led by the Archangel Iron Dome, and so they would prevail each and every time for generations, amen sela, etc etc etc.”

Right? Sounds like something I read in religious school at Temple Akiba.

We may not have painted our doorposts with lambsblood, but we did leave emergency bags by the door in case we had to run to the safe room or the stairwell. And through the lense of a millenia, certainly the countries that rushed to our aid that slow and terrifying night could be transformed into angels years from now when generations we cannot even imagine tell the story. Which they one day will.

As far as I’m concerned, they are already angels. And our own IDF performed modern day miracles through our own technology and military prowess.

So for now, I’m feeling many things – mostly just overwhelming gratitude that we managed to blink and open our eyes back in a world that almost resembles normal. The sky is blue. The nail salon is open. The coffee is robust. But I’m also on edge, too. Last night, I heard the siren again – that primal sound mixed down to one long howl, and I felt my stomach drop, and my heart stammer. It was only the tv with a news replay, and even though I knew this intellectually, the tears poured down in rivers of salt and silt over my cheeks.

PTSD is a real thing – and I don’t know a single person here who isn’t feeling it to some degree. And even though things have lurched back to normal, we are all on edge still, waiting for something else to change – a barrage of text messages, let alone rockets, is enough to make me feel sick, and honestly, I am one dropped spork away from losing my shit completely.

But now, the radio is on, and i’m vibing. Matchbox 20 —

I’m not crazy

I’m just a little unwell I know, right now you can’t tell

But stay a while and maybe then you’ll see

A different side of me

And – hooray! – I’ve suddenly traveled to another planet – one circa 2003, and the almond trees are blooming in northern California. It’s a post 9-11 world, sure — but the illusion of safety is strong, my dudes, and I’m ok. (Although my fashion chocies may be a little questioanble – and I really should leave my damn eyebrows alone.)

The song ends, and the radio host speaks – in English, which is unusual, but hey, nothing is USUAL these days, and It’s kinda nice, TBH, not to have to think twice about the words.

“These aren’t easy days,” the voice says with an inflection I can’t quite place – the shape of it is round in some ways, clipped in others, refined and intentional — “Many of us are feeling on edge especially after the situation a few nights ago”

YES, I say to the radio! Yes!!! Yes!!! 100%! You get it! We are feeling on edge!!!

“If you find yourself feeling like everything is doomed, you may be suffering from PTSD!”

“Totally!” I say back, tears in my eyes — I feel seen. I feel heard. I feel understood.

(And a voice from the wilderness spoke out to the children of the  Place of Light  and validated their feelings of stress and anxiety.)

“Let us take the stigma out of mental illness,” the voice continues in English…

The tears fall from my eyes. “Yes! LET’S take the stigma out of mental illness!” I say back.

“If you are experencing unpleasant feelings, please seek help.”

I nod.

“Ok, I Will!”

Amen, Sela, etc etc etc.

“And now the news,” the elegant voice continues. “Today our thoughts turn to Gaza, and the children under Isra-eee-leeee bombardment… May the people of Gaza prevail against the forces of darkness”

The darkness? Wait, what?!? ISRAEL is the darkness? Huh? But we’re supposed to be the light in this story!”

The news reports continued – a reality from a different side of the universe. It took me a few seconds to understand, but then I realized: Here in Jerusalem, the wind is clear and smells like orange blossom, and while we are a planet unto ourself, just past the vast expanse of desert through the window, I can see the outline of Amman if I squint.

It’s another planet entirely – but one where the play Matchbox 20, and then Tupac, and Adele, Depeche Mode, and then Libre Palestine in the morning, and listening to the news from this Jordanian radio station which I can hear as crisply as I can hear our own news is like putting my ear into the Upside Down.

And it makes me wonder what women like me in Amman must think when OUR radio stations hit their airwaves – which must inevitably happen, too – with songs they may love as well… Beyonce, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruno Mars… with “Am Yisrael Chai” and “B’Yachad Nenatseach” and news clips from an entirely different place you can see on a clear day if you choose to look.

What stories will we all tell one day? What stories will be remembered? I know the stories I’m telling my children – how with a mighy hand and an outstretched arm ,we defended ourselves and will always defend ourselves, and how as varied people we look for ways to be the light and build bridges to other planets to create just and lasting peace… a messianic age in real time despite the odds and the constant setbacks and losses… we kept trying. We keep trying.

And I know that I’ll tell my children to tell THEIR children, just as our ancestors sat down with their families back in a time and space too far to remember when we began to share the story of our bondage, our struggles, our eventual triumph, and our liberation.

(“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”)

The radio is on. The same station. And another song is playing:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky

I’m vibing, too. And here, in this place, on this planet, looking toward Jordan, confused by their news, and also remembering that the night the angels helped save us children of the Place of Light, their King was one of them, and not everything can be distilled into one soundbite or story — sometimes, there are many stories that we must somehow contain in an entire ocean in one single drop.

And two mornings after the world almost ended, I have no answers. Just these feelings that gallop inside my ribs sometimes, and fall from my eyes in rivers to the sea.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer is the author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel. She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems, and she now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors, talks to strangers, and writes stories about people — especially taxi drivers. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
Related Topics
Related Posts