Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

On a mission to show my kids a monastery, I ruined Coolio & became my dad

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but when I was little, my parents and I used to take road trips up and down the coast of California – my mom and I would listen to books on tape (Mary Higgins Clark! Fanny Flagg!!!) and watch for whales or dolphins out the window as we drove alongside the Pacific Ocean sitting pretty west of The One, and my dad would look for the old California missions built back in the day.

With my dad at a rest stop on a mission to visit a California mission
Photo: My mom, Maida Singer – of blessed memory

He’d make us take these detours through small towns, the hills smelling sweet with California sagebrush.

I’m sure it was beautiful, but I didn’t care.

I’d be antsy and hungry/tired/thirsty ready to just get to wherever it is we were going already.

(“Are we there yet?”)

My dad – joyfully oblivious – would talk about the history of Father Junipero Serra, the El Camino Real, and the California missions. He knew it all – and he regaled is with his “fun” (LOL) facts.

My mom was unflappably polite. She would listen and smile attentively.

I wasn’t polite. I would roll my eyes and sigh really, really loudly.

And I would also swear out loud that I would never do this to my kids.

My dad would just smile beatifically.

Yeah, well, you know where this is going, right?

On the way to the Dead Sea a few years ago, we pulled off onto a small road that wound its way like a snake through the desert. We saw a gazelle frolic over the ragged moonscape toward a lone tree.

The sun beat down, and the sky was a sweet, dusty blue.

I was on a mission. I wanted to take my kids to see a monastery.

And no, the irony is not lost on me.

I could literally hear my kids roll their eyes.

“Trust me, you’re going to love it! It’s amazing – it’s a monastery built into the side of the cliff! It’s really special! It’s been around for hundreds of years!” I said, as – like my dad – I shared the history of St. George’s monastery with them.

“You know the song Gangsta’s Paradise where Coolio says ‘though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death?’ That’s actually a line from a psalm that probably refers to this valley!!!”

My kids sighed. I think I ruined Coolio for them.

“I’ll never do this to my kids,” my daughter muttered.

“Me neither,” my son said.

And as we made the turn to St George’s monastery in Wadi al-Qelt, I just smiled beatifically

From generation to generation – the torch has been passed.

I swear, I could almost smell the California sagebrush.


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.