Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem
Featured Post

The American in “Hevron”

An Israeli in a large Palestinian city hiding as an American in plain sight

We’re sipping the same black coffee in matching chiseled glasses — the kind of coffee that tastes like cardamon and adrenaline, mahogany brown until you reach the black mud at the bottom.

Perfection in a cup.

Mohammed had just handed us our matching glasses when we began to speak, this man and I side by side.

There are signs all over the shop: Pictures of the Palestinian resistance with a PR spin: Instead of stones, the children on the posters throw flower bouquets.

Flower bouquets? Really? Try telling that to the families knocked off the road, the families who tumbled down the ravines, the families who will never wake up.

Where have all the flowers gone.

I reach into my bag and my index finger traces the edge of of my US passport while I think about the Israeli ID I shoved in the glove compartment outside of the Hebron checkpoint.

In Hebron, I am American.


When the children inside the Muslim area of Hebron pull my hand and say “take my picture, take my picture so you don’t forget me,” I am American.

hebron kid

When I watch men stroll out of the mosque and roll a joint and smoke in the shadows of the coffee house, I am American.

When I eat kanafeh and drink black coffee and buy pickled radishes from a boy and his father, when I run my fingers over the blue evil eye beads just like my mother used to hold during those long last days of her life that ended too soon, when I smile at the young girl who touches my sleeve and says “welcome to Palestine,” I am American.

hebron girl

My name is Sarah. I am from Los Angeles. The children I am raising on a village in the center of Israel, the children who speak in Hebrew, the children who will one day carry guns and wear olive green and fight for Israel, figments of a reality I leave behind when I cross the checkpoint.

And the man to my left drinking coffee with me, with the ruddy skin and twinkling blue eyes, is from Finland.

“Where are you from in Finland?” I ask him.


“Ah, I have a friend in Varkaus.”

“Oh yes, Varkaus is very nice. And where are you from?”

“Los Angeles.”

“Beautiful city, Los Angeles. I have a daughter in San Francisco.”

“Yes, San Francisco is lovely. Especially during this time of year. Do you live in Hevron?”

And there it is: The V instead of the B — that softening of the consonant, and the rounding of the “O” that gives me away — the functional equivalent of busting out my Israeli ID and waving it around while dancing the hora.

In lieu of Hebron. Hevron.

“Lama lo amart li sh’at mi po? Why didn’t you tell me you’re from here? Ani noladiti b’aaretz gam. I was born here, too.” he says in perfect Israeli Hebrew for my ears alone while Mohammed and the others all around us continue to drink their coffee, three or four paces in front of the soldiers.

And my pulse raises while coffee and adrenaline fill my mouth.  If only we could all just sit here and drink coffee, all of us, unafraid to sip and speak freely while we sit and smoke in the gathering dusk.

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.