Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

The book that belongs to Yosef

I don’t know if I told you about the book that made me cry in the little wine store off of Herzl Street one day in autumn many years ago.

The book was just next to the Gamla red, (and the bottle of Arak for a Lchaim with special customers,) the owner had this old book hidden in plain sight.

I like old books – their crackly pages that outlive the children who left grubby fingerprints on them, the notes tucked away… maybe a dedication on the first page: this book belongs to Yosef, age 12…belongs. BELONGS.

Yosef most certainly died before I was born.

Yosef’s book – why did it make me cry?

It’s the book of Deuteronomy — published in 1898. And look at the Cyrillic at the bottom — printed in Warsaw when it was under Russian rule — This book was carried in the shtetls, through frost and thaw and mud and flower, my great Grandfather could have held this book in trembling hands before fleeing the galloping hoofbeats of the Cossacks —– my great Grandmother could have read this with her father — he taught her even though girls weren’t supposed to learn such things.

There are fingerprints, and notes tucked in the binding. The book smells like candle light and dust and river rocks.

This book belongs to Yosef

I think about the Sabbath dinners they all must have eaten – the seders, and the stories and the solemn promise: Next year in Jerusalem!

(See how we longed for it even then?)

My eyes are full.

The glass of Red beside me, too – and I drink every last drop of wine from this land in their memory.

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.