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Jan 27 2014

Loving (and Leaving) the Kibbutz

By at 1:20 pm


My son was 2 years old and we were living in the West Village. I wasn’t sure the city was the right place to bring up this kid. Maybe another kid, my yet-to-be-born daughter, for instance. But not him. He was and has always been a physically active kid. The only running around he could do was at the playground.

My husband was born on a kibbutz in Israel. He had always described his childhood in idyllic terms, with loads of freedom and activities and nature. He was the person at the Central Park petting zoo who could coax the cow out of the shed. He knew which fruits and vegetables were in season, when. His parents still lived there along with his sister and her children. And while I was not Israeli, or for that matter, even Jewish, I longed for the community and family life he described.

We took the 11-hour plane trip and arrived on the kibbutz. Instantly, my son and I were in love. On the kibbutz I watched him run around excitedly from person to person. Kibbutznik men are generally a loving bunch and were a constant source of entertainment for my young social son. And I? I was relaxed. On that visit, for the first time since my son was born, I could let my guard down. On an Israeli kibbutz, just 15 miles from the Lebanese border, I found peace. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 24 2013

How My Pregnancy Cravings Led to a Quasi-Conversion

By at 2:13 pm

moroccon food

When I was pregnant with my son, I knew he was going to have blond hair and blue grey eyes like my father. I knew he would take after my American side–rather than his Israeli father–because all the time I was pregnant, I craved pizza, hamburgers, and Coca-Cola.

I was not surprised when he was brought to me: a skinny old man with blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. I gave him a name my Israeli-Jewish husband approved of: Eitan. In America we would call him Ethan, a Puritan name, to reflect my own American Protestant roots. I called him Eitan ha katan because it rhymed. Ethan the little. When my son was 2 years old, we moved, for six months, to Israel.

Conversion to Judaism had never really been a question. My husband and I married just seven months after meeting and I knew I had no chance at an Orthodox conversion. According to Israeli law, I would never be Jewish, nor would our son. And anyway, my husband had grown up on a kibbutz. His childhood was largely secular. His own father had been rumored to eat sausage on Yom Kippur. When we’d lived on the kibbutz for those few months, my father-in-law took great pleasure in bringing me wrapped deli ham from the Russian butcher as a Friday night treat. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 14 2013

The Real Blessing of the Skinned Knee (and Bruised Forehead)

By at 2:10 pm

My son has become a rabbit.

A 3-year-old rabbit with pale blonde hair and a blue Angry Birds ski cap pulled low over his forehead.

I didn’t get it at first. And I didn’t understand why he was hopping out of the classroom when I picked him up from preschool.

“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

He wiggled his nose.

“Did you hurt your foot?” Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 5 2012

Homeless in the Homeland

By at 10:01 am
kibbutz sukkah

Sarah's kids hanging out in the neighbor's sukkah.

“Mama, where are we going?” my daughter asks after I pick her up from gan on the kibbutz.
A sudden gust of wind, and her hair dances. “Wind!” my son shrieks from his perch on my shoulders.

It’s cold for October. And it gets dark early now — a few weeks of passive-aggressive autumn and then winter will be riding us hard in full force, slamming my LA ass against the ground in torrents of wind or rain while I look for a cozy room with a radiator. #FirstWorldProblems.

Except, then she asks again:

“Mama, where are we going to sleep tonight?”

This should be the biggest no-brainer question in the whole entire universe. Because let’s be real: there is only one right answer, and I should be able to look into my daughter’s upturned face and say “we’re going home, sweet girl.”

But… It turns out there is something worse than feeling homesick in the Homeland.
Anyone want to wager any guesses?

Try Homeless in the Homeland. And on the nights when I am with my kids, I do not have anywhere to take them. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 20 2012

There Was a Rapist on My Kibbutz

By at 2:52 pm

girl on bike no handsSo once upon a time when we lived in the Big Bad City where police helicopters were more plentiful than stars in the smoggy LA night sky, my ex told me about this magical place where children roam free and everyone knows everyone and it’s like Mayberry only in Hebrew and with shmarim instead of apple pie, and blah blah blah.

It’s called a kibbutz. And apparently it’s paradise for children. And dogs. (Because both like to run around and pee on lawns, etcetera.) Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 24 2012

Trying to “Find Myself” at Age 31

By at 1:52 pm

fragile moving box“You’re on the kibbutz a lot these days,” someone said to me during Shabbat dinner in the dining hall. “It’s nice.”

It is nice. And it’s true: I am here a lot these days, for two reasons:

1. I’m dating someone from the kibbutz. Yup. You read that right. Of all the single men (and women) in this whole freaking country, I happened to fall for someone from the very place I wanted to escape. (Think Shakespeare meets Woody Allen and get serious, people.)  And after a few weeks of creeping through the woods with a skicap on–in the middle of a very hot Israeli summer–I figured it was time to fess up and tell my ex. So now he knows. And now you know. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 7 2012

The Kibbutz Isn’t So Bad

By at 9:41 am

kids at bar counterLet’s see… how do I say this without sounding like a total ass? Ok. Fine: I don’t hate the kibbutz.


In fact, I kind of like it.

Ever since I left late last year, I’ve come to realize that this place really isn’t so awful. And the people here are like people all over–good and bad and mostly just in between and trying to get by. Like me.

If I’m going to get all introspective and whatnot, I think the problem wasn’t the place–it was my place. See, I looked to this small community to fill the cracks in my life, and like any relationship that’s based on a dysfunctional need, I was disappointed. And because things at home were so tenuous–the kids were sick all the freaking time, and the surly silence between our walls would shatter in the clatter of yet another misinterpretation–I expected this kibbutz to fill my need for companionship and friendship and belonging. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 19 2012

Why This Mama Feels Like a Dad

By at 1:28 pm
sarah tuttle-singer photograph of kids

My two kids.

Last week was all about the dudes on Kveller, and all this man-talk got me thinking.

In May 2008 and then a scant 18 months later in December 2009, I grunted and screamed and threatened to cut my OB and openly prayed that I wouldn’t lose my shit all over the delivery table I lovingly gave birth to my two children. I breastfed for three and a half years. I’m clearly a Mama. But over the last five months, I sometimes feel like I’ve stepped out of that role and into the traditional male role. In my high heel hooker boots.

Who’s your daddy? Yes I am. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2012

Edgy and Raunchy Sounds Good to Me

By at 1:09 pm
Two cute blonde kids

Will Sarah's kids stop to smell the Jasmine?

About a year ago, I started highlighting my hair, wearing skinny jeans, and painting my nails black.

“What, you think you’re Ke$ha all of a sudden?” B. asked while he watched me zip up my high heel hooker boots–the ones with the gun metal grey studs on the sides.

I feigned indignation. But as visions of brushing my teeth with a bottle of jack flitted through my mind, I was secretly thrilled. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 2 2012

On the Farm: Nursing our Fledgling Apple Orchard

By at 10:22 am
apple branch

The beginnings of what will eventually be our apples.

Years ago my husband and I volunteered on Kibbutz Sde Eliahu in Israel, working in an organic vineyard and vegetable garden. On Tu Bishvat, kibbutzniks we had never seen in the fields came to help in the garden for a few hours. When we left the kibbutz, the leader of the vineyard gave us a little farewell blessing. We didn’t understand it all but he definitely said to “have children” and “plant trees with real roots, not just tomatoes.”

So, we returned home and pretty much got to work following his instructions. Read the rest of this entry →


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