Writer Sarah Tuttle-Singer is not one for holding back. With her opinions expressed clearly in her writing and on her popular social media channels — from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to feminism and politics — Tuttle-Singer has become a lightning rod for respect, and sometimes revulsion.
Case in point: The mere mention on Facebook of her Jerusalem book launch ahead of Monday night set off simultaneous waves of harsh condemnation and staunch support.
Filling Jerusalem’s elegant Mishekenot Sha’ananim auditorium Monday night, however, were some 200 fans, friends and family of the new author. They came to celebrate the birth of Tuttle-Singer’s book baby, “Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem.”
For many in the audience who had only previously met Tuttle-Singer online, Monday’s event was a good platform to get to know The Times of Israel’s new media editor IRL (in real life). A captivating storyteller, through Times of Israel Presents’ director Matthew Kalman’s skillful questions Tuttle-Singer brought the house to laughter and the brink of tears with her first-person tales of a love affair with the Old City of Jerusalem.
On the face of it, “Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered” is Tuttle-Singer’s memoir of a year living in the her beloved Old City. But, reflecting the author’s personal complexity, it is also multilayered, nonlinear journey to reconnect with her mother, who died from cancer when the author was in her early 20s, and discover her great-grandmother, who adventurously had a “steamy, sexy affair” with an Ottoman official on an Old City rooftop.
Tuttle-Singer recounts falling in love with the city as a teenager, but after being the target of stone-throwing in the Muslim Quarter, feeling betrayed and terrorized. She only returned there a decade and a half later.
Overcoming “sheer stark terror,” she went back alongside popular Times of Israel journalist and creator of the hit series “Fauda,” Avi Issacharoff, and was met with the sweetness of a kenafe dessert. She realized that she “just saw people” there, not the archetypical Other.
Eventually, Tuttle-Singer says, she wanted to “be a part of the fabric of the Old City… to open a window into these different lives.” In the book and onstage, her accounts are peppered with vignettes and everyday life in this place, which she calls “out of time, out of place, a microcosm.” She clarifies that the identity of each of those reflected in her stories has been changed “to protect the innocent — and the not-so-innocent.”
She is not a journalist, she says, and her tales are not about “subjects.” After spending a year in the Old City, “these are friends,” she says, “these are relationships.”
Her stay in the Old City in 2016 coincided with the wane of the recent “Lone Wolf Intifada,” which was marked by random stabbings there and in other parts of the country. Perhaps because her father, Rick Tuttle, sat in the audience, the author affirmed that as a mother of two, her personal safety is always paramount. “It’s one thing to do something that is on the edge, a little crazy, it’s another to do something stupid,” she says with a smile.
At the same time, in the wake of terror attacks, although “angry,” she felt that as an Israeli with a state, army, and freedom of movement, she must make the first move in continuing her relationships with the non-Jews she was living among.
“The peace of Jerusalem dances on the head of a pin and a butterfly landing the wrong way can set off a riot,” says Tuttle-Singer.
The key to forming a fragile equilibrium and “putting the pieces of Jerusalem that are broken back together,” she says, is through one-on-one encounters.
“When we look each other in the eyes and tell the truth about ourselves, then other people would be more likely to do the same,” she says. “Each of us can be part of that change.”
Upcoming Times of Israel Presents Events
Our premiere English screening of Israeli TV’s hit comedy “Shababnikim” was so popular that the audience asked us for more. We’ll screen episodes 3, 4 and 5 – and repeat episodes 1 and 2 for those who missed them the first time around.
June 27, 2018, at 7:45 PM
Tickets can be purchased HERE.
A taste of Israeli theater
Jerusalem’s Khan Theatre is one of the city’s hidden jewels. Housed in an ancient wayfarers’ inn whose foundations date back to the Crusaders, the Khan is an independent repertory theater presenting the very best of the Israeli stage in an intimate setting.
On Tuesday, July 3, Times of Israel readers are invited to a special English performance of “Eating” — a powerful satire by Yaakov Shabtai featuring the biblical King Ahab and his wife Jezebel who arranges the murder of Naboth the Jezreelite so Ahab can seize his vineyard.