Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem
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What I learned from the woman in hijab at Heathrow Airport

An encounter in Heathrow Airport didn't go as expected

I just kissed a stone in the middle of the Old City, and I had a good reason.

But first, I have to tell you what what happened at Heathrow Airport:

I wanted to buy scotch – as one should when they have a long-ass layover in London — because the prices are batshit insane. Like, literally 1/3 of what you pay in Israel.

They even had Caol Isla – which I know is not Laphroaig, but it’s actually harder to find than Laphroaig, and it’s got softer edges… smoke that curls instead of singes… And sometimes I want it gentle. Sometimes.

And for just a little over $50? Hell yeah.

So, I grabbed a bottle off the shelf, and bellied up to the duty free checkout. One line. Three cashiers. There was the guy with the bowtie. Festive. The woman who looked like my grandmother. Lovely. And then the woman in a black hijab.

And there I was with my big ass bottle of scotch.

Of course, the first cashier to be free when I got to the head of the line was the woman in the hijab.

Full on black hijab – as worn by the most observant Muslim women – with just a little face showing through, and I thought:

Fabulous. I’m buying alcohol. Which is like going to a guy in a yarmulke and buying a big old slab of pork chop.

Would she be offended? Would she judge me?


I smiled and handed it over.

Then, she smiled back.

“I need to see your boarding pass,” she said.

I handed her my boarding pass that said LONDON — TEL AVIV.

“Where are you flying to?” she asked as she scanned it.

“Israel,” I answered, wondering if we’d have #ThatAwkwardMoment where we won’t meet each other’s eyes.

But instead her eyes lit up and she smiled full on – “Oh, I love it there! My niece was studying conflict resolution at the Hebrew University and I went to visit her!”

“Oh that’s so cool! Was she working with Israelis and Palestinians?”

“Yes, she learned Arabic and some Hebrew, and she worked with kids from both sides. I am so proud of her. Anyway, enjoy your scotch, and kiss Jerusalem for me.”

“I will!” I answered, and I gave her my number for the next time she comes back.

And be’ezrat hashem, Inshallah may it be soon.

And so thats why I just kissed a stone in the middle of the Old City – a stone on the roof where the four quarters meet – for the woman in hijab at Heathrow Airport who sold me scotch and took me completely by surprise, and reminded me never to be that asshole who makes bullshit assumptions about anyone again.

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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