Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

At Aroma Cafe, it almost looks like everything is normal. Look closer

Today at Aroma Cafe, 99 days since the war began, it almost looks like everything is normal.

The parliament is cheerfully in session and the old men sit outside and smoke and solve all the worlds problems.

A couple hold hands, while waiting in line.

A family divides up egg salad sandwiches and chocolate croissants. A brother teases his sister. She teases him back.

A mother wears her baby in a carrier. He squirms.
“What size coffee?” The woman at the register asks.

“Large. No, wait, make that a f@cking anak — huuuuuge coffee.” She kissed her baby’s head.  “I haven’t slept in a very long time.”

Two old women approach her – one tells her the baby looks cold.

Her friend intervenes and says “Ma pitom? He’s too warm!”

The WOLT guy grabs an order for delivery.

It could be any Jerusalem day in sunny winter, the trees outside are bare and the sky is a crystal blue.

It almost looks normal.

But look closer.

On the wall there’s a screen with the faces of the hostages — some we know by now are dead.

Look closer and there’s a woman with tears in her eyes.
She wipes them away.

“Sorry, it’s been a long 99 days,” she says to no one.

“It’s almost like you Israelis don’t care about Gaza,” a guy in line says in English. The mother with the baby next to him turns on him with her fangs bared. “What the hell is wrong with you,” she says

“How can people go out and enjoy life when just a few miles away there’s destruction?” He asks.

“It’s not that we don’t care,” she says. “No one is happy about what’s happening in Gaza. It’s horrible. And we also didn’t start this war. And we also know we have to win it now that we were forced into it. And for fcks sake my friend’s son is still a hostage and she’s had no sign of life. My other friend’s son was killed in battle. My good friend was burned to death on October 7. My neighbor’s daughter was raped and dismembered. And everywhere around the world, Jews are no longer safe. And not only do we have to defend our lives against terrorist monsters, now in The Hague we have to defend our RIGHT to defend our lives. And while you’re at it, look around — that woman over there gas tears in her eyes and the hotel across the street is housing refugees from the south. We are all exhausted and heartbroken and angry and scared. And and and we are allowed to have a little fresh air and a cup of coffee and even a goddamn croissant if that’s what we need to get through the day.”

“Well if it’s so bad why aren’t you in mourning?”

“You think we aren’t??? Of course we are. But in Judaism, we choose life. We do whatever it takes to keep on living, and finding light. It’s why we continue not just to survive, but to thrive. We insist on it. That’s why we go out and sit and support each other and have another cup of coffee with one another.  There is no other way for us, except forward with the memories of the past  reminding us to keep going.”

The man backs away.

I’m not sure anyone else saw their exchange.

But I did.

And I want you to see, too.

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.
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