Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

Trauma runs deep, but where there’s life there’s hope

The man who beat me for two years when I was at University was the grandson of four holocaust survivors.

Each of his grandparents had lost their entire families in the camps – their wives and husbands and children – even the baby. But where there’s life there’s hope and they survived, and made new families in Israel.

But trauma runs deep in the veins of those who’ve lived the worst – and the agony they endured warped them, the stench of burned flesh, the high yap of the dogs, the crack of the pistol, the cold, that endless cold, it seeped onto their skin, and it stayed deep in their veins.

Trauma runs deep and back in the early days of Statehood, people were building a nation and they wanted to forget, and no one understood things like PTSD or could speak to the nightmares and those who survived forged ahead alone.

So his grandparents, did just that: they forged ahead and they hid their bread in secret places just in case. The bread grew hard and green around the edges, corrupt dough, hard enough to leave a bruise, but they would eat it if they had to, just like the potatoes, hidden behind the bookshelf, rotten and covered in maggots, just in case.

They smacked their children hard across the face when they didn’t finish their dinner.

They hissed at then to be silent in their beds just in case, not to cry, to barely breathe, just in case.

They didn’t speak of what had happened – there only that there was this black emptiness where we normally tell stories about our childhood, about our parents, about first kisses, about the streets we wandered and the trees we climbed.

There was only this maw of darkness, and they spoke the language of the loudest silence you ever heard.

They tried to forget their first children, lined up and shot in front of them, or the last time he saw the love of his life while she stood there with her eyes shot too wide open and her mouth stretched into a rictus as the guards pulled her away, or how her husband turned and waved as if to say “I’ll see you soon, my love,” they tied to forget the baby born blue with his skull caved in, but the ghosts were there in their eyes, and their hands flew and they raged against the children that were born because everyone else had died.

And then their children grew up with their own hands clenched in fear and fury, and as their parents had beat them, they beat their son who then beat me.

Trauma runs deep, in grey rivers of salt and silt and soot through our veins.

We deal with it in different ways – some of us build, and embrace and never lay a hand on anyone except in love and caring. Some of us can’t without help and some of us never get that help.

I don’t excuse it, but I also see it and understand.

But where there’s life, there’s hope.

I will always choose to believe that.

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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