Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

An Israeli mother’s prayer before Memorial Day

They say that all Israeli mothers look at their children at some point knowing that we have to give them away

Maybe it’s because he recently asked me for a sip of coffee and he actually liked it – or maybe it’s because his dad gave him a buzz cut, and I can see the angles of his face, or maybe it’s because he’s almost to my shoulder now, and his legs are lean and his arms, too, and he’s lost that powdered donut softness, and he sucks back tears when he gets hurt because “only Babies cry,” but I’m starting to get scared.

If we lived in LA I would notice the changes in his little body and marvel  – maybe I’d be wistful just a little as I see his growing up marking the years I’ve grown too – for every inch he grows, a new thread of silver in my hair… each day fades into a new dawn.

They say that all Israeli mothers look at their children at some point knowing that we have to give them away – not the same way we would let them go in any normal country, because we are not a normal country…. and our sons and our daughters will put on combat boots one by one, and pick up rifles one by one, and hand over their lives one by one for their unit and a pair of dog tags.

Maybe it’s because we are getting closer to that age when he will have to serve or face a lifetime of being ostracized by a society that suckles on our stories of heroes, or maybe it’s because he told me that he’s afraid he’ll have to kill someone almost as much as he is afraid of pirates or ghosts or being killed himself by a rocket or a gun or a knife in his back.

(You can’t hide your children from the news when every hour they cut off Ariana or Justin or Static & Ben El with a news bulletin – you can’t hide your children from the news when everyone here knows someone killed or maimed in a war or terror attack. You can’t hide your children from the news when we are shaping the history of this place every single day by the sheer fact that we live here.)

But I look at my kid – truly a kid – no longer a baby – my kid who pretends to believe in the tooth fairy because he likes the ancient Byzantine coins I leave him, but still sleeps with a stuffed whale, but won’t hold my hand in public unless we are alone and is old enough to read the newspaper, who comes home from school and tells me about the things his friends say about the Arabs and how they all want to kill us, and when I sit him down to tell him this isn’t true, I can see him struggle to believe because fear is big and hungry and has sharp teeth, and I am scared.

I am scared that we are holding on to that last thread of sanity and this whole thing is about to unravel into a seething mass of worms.

I am scared for his soft skin and sweet little face.

I am scared to look those other mothers in the eye, the ones that mewl over open graves, and know truly it could be any of us. God forbid, God save us.

Please. Let this be the last generation where we have to give our sons and daughters like this — because I am terrified that one day he will look at his little boy or girl and feel the same cold sick dread that I am feeling, and that is almost too unbearable for words.

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.