Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

The lottery ticket

Like so many Israelis, I've come to expect miracles, so I might as well play my lucky number
Illustration by Avi Katz
Illustration by Avi Katz

It was buy either a cappuccino or a lottery ticket on Herzl Street in Ramle.

And I chose the lottery ticket.

For two reasons:

1. I had already had a cup of coffee.
2. I’m an optimist, and why not?

Ramle is full of lottery kiosks — the poorer the town, the more it seems the guys line up with 10 shekels in their pockets, paint splattered on their jeans, missing buttons on their shirts, their fingers stained with nicotine, and thinking maybe this is it.

This is it, why not: a ticket to Greece on a boat with gentle waves and maybe a cold drink — yes, definitely a cold drink, Arak, or is it Ouzo? A frosty beer… This is it — a penthouse in Tel Aviv with clean lines And chrome and glass, and maybe Gal Gadot living next door, why not? This is it — tuition for their kid at a university abroad, somewhere, anywhere, their ticket out of the same shit different day.

Israel is a nation of optimists (abrasive, opinionated… and insistently thriving optimists).

I’m not a guy, but I had 10 shekels and there I was — an optimist — I chose that lottery ticket over a cappuccino because why not.

“Hi, how does this work?” I asked the guy with the mustache the same shape and shade as a rusted horseshoe who was sitting inside the kiosk.

“Well, depends what you want and what you’re willing to bet.”

“The luckiest and the cheapest!”

“No such thing,” he laughed. “Luck costs money.”

“OK, I’m willing to try.”

“Do you want the machine to give you numbers, or…”

“NO!” I want to pick my own.”

So I did. My kids’ birthdates, then my moms favorite number (11), and then mine (8) I paid extra to double WHEN I win.

“It’s really your first time?” the man asked while he rang up my ticket.


“You won’t win.”

“You never know. I’ve come to expect miracles.”

He looked at me. Like, really looked at me. Nodded. Then blinked and nodded again.

He fumbled in this little basket next to the cash register and took out two pieces of thread with tassels, tied together. One red, one white.

“Tie this on your purse,” he said. “It’ll bring you luck.”

“What does it mean?”

“The red string is for blood, and the blush in your cheeks. The white is for the sun and for light. Nu, give me your purse. I’ll tie it for you,” he said.

“That’s amazing! Where does this come from?” I asked, while he tied the strings to the zipper.

“Bulgaria, where I am from.” he squared his shoulders and his mustache quivered, almost like I should have KNOWN he was from Bulgaria, the land of blood and light.

“Thanks,” I said, fingering the talisman “But I thought you said luck costs money.”

“You paid for it,” he said nodding toward my ticket. “And anyway, faith is for free. And you’ll buy me coffee when you win.”

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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