Jerusalem Drawn and Quar­tered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Chris­t­ian, Mus­lim, Armen­ian, and Jew­ish Quar­ters of Old Jerusalem

Sarah Tut­tle-Singer
  • Review
By – August 7, 2018

Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s mem­oir about her year liv­ing in Jerusalem’s Old City is many things: mad­den­ing, mov­ing, insight­ful, defi­ant, hope­ful, lyri­cal — some­times all at once. In some ways a lament for the rend­ing of a once-whole city, this book recounts her admirable deter­mi­na­tion to know Jerusalem beyond its usu­al boundaries.

Tut­tle-Singer fell in love with Jerusalem, and the Old City in par­tic­u­lar, at the age of six­teen when her par­ents sent her to Israel for the sum­mer. Dur­ing that trip she was sex­u­al­ly assault­ed on a kib­butz, and attacked by Pales­tin­ian boys out­side of Dam­as­cus Gate. It was a while before she returned to Israel.

Back home in Los Ange­les, her moth­er was dying of can­cer. Soon after she died, Tut­tle-Singer mar­ried an Israeli kib­butznik, had two babies, and moved to a kib­butz. I was a mess,” she writes. Divorce fol­lowed. She decid­ed to live in the Old City. She want­ed, she explains, to go behind the walls and see what’s hid­den, what doesn’t meet the eye.” She would live there for a year, as an inside-out­sider, a vis­i­tor look­ing for com­mu­ni­ty, but nev­er real­ly grow­ing roots.” With her blond hair, nose ring, and mer­maid tat­too, she didn’t seek to fit in, but rather to expe­ri­ence the city and gain insight from her out­sider perspective.

This rebel­lious Jew­ess” to whom self-expres­sion is para­mount, was also look­ing for her­self, seek­ing to ven­ture beyond her own walls and define her own bound­aries. Then one win­ter night, those bound­aries were chal­lenged when she was assault­ed by a Pales­tin­ian who worked at the hotel where she was stay­ing. Tut­tle-Singer feared that if she report­ed the attack to the police, they would frame it in racial terms which, in her view, was not what hap­pened: It hap­pened because I am a woman and he is an ass­hole.” It would also, she knew, end any cred­i­bil­i­ty she could earn with Pales­tini­ans. The assault went unre­port­ed, and she remained haunt­ed by it.

For Tut­tle-Singer, the Old City’s Jew­ish Quar­ter appeared to be of the least inter­est, even though the peo­ple behind its walls were as unknown to her as those in the oth­er three quarters.

Nonethe­less, thanks to her curios­i­ty and per­sis­tence, Tut­tle-Singer does open doors — or at least win­dows — into dif­fer­ent areas of the Old City, espe­cial­ly the Mus­lim Quar­ter, shar­ing with the read­er her deter­mi­na­tion to become famil­iar with the unfa­mil­iar, and her result­ing insights.

Gila Wertheimer is Asso­ciate Edi­tor of the Chica­go Jew­ish Star. She is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist who has been review­ing books for 35 years.

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