Jewish Telegraph Columns - April 28th onwards
love will heal scars of hatred
October 27, 2000
I AM used to receiving hate mail. Once it arrived in coloured envelopes, addressed in blotted, irregular hand-writing, as easy to spot as the plain brown livery of a tax demand.
Or it was lobbed over the gates, wrapped around a stone and secured with nylon string. Or it was pressed into my hand at a show or a book signing, by someone who would not look me in the eye or give their name.
If the mail was persistent, if I started finding three or four of those coloured envelopes, all in the same handwriting, in my postbox every morning for a week, then I might keep a few and pass them on to the police.
But that has happened only once or twice in my whole career. Usually, a hate letter is a momentary eruption, an irrational response to something way outside my own life.
A TV appearance or a newspaper article has brought me into contact with someone I will never meet, at an instant when their mental health is weak.
Hatred which is boiling wildly in a sick mind becomes aimed at me. A week later, the bout of illness over, the letter-writer will probably not even remember what they sent to me. That’s OK — I paid it no mind either.
But a different kind of hate mail is coming now. It is electronic, arriving in almost every batch of email.
It looks no different to the calmer communiques I am receiving from friends and correspondents around the world — with headings like ‘Attack on student fuels tensions’ or ‘Advice to British Jews’.
I start to read. After a line or two, I am hit by a wave of disgust. One was forwarded to me a couple of hours ago. It masqueraded as a ‘press release’ from Anjem Choudary, who styles himself ‘UK leader of Al-Mahajiroun’ and Chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers.
Al-Muhajiroun — slogan: The Voice, The Eyes, The Ears of The Muslims — were banned from a Birmingham community centre for distributing racist leaflets, as the Jewish Telegraph reported earlier this month.
Choudary wrote: ‘‘We urge Jews in the UK and elsewhere not to show any support for the Israeli regime whether verbal, financial or physical, or they may allow themselves to become targets for Muslims everywhere.’’
Choudary echoes the language of Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, who is supposedly the Principal Judge of the Shari’ah Court of the UK: ‘‘I warn and advise the Jewish community in the UK to distance themselves from the State of Israel. If you support Israel financially, verbally or physically you will become part of the conflict.’’
Presumably 20-year-old Mayer David Myers, a student at Gateshead Talmudic College, was ‘supporting Israel financially, verbally or physically’ when he travelled on a north London bus through Stamford Hill wearing a yarmulke.
He was stabbed more than 20 times by a man wielding a six-inch knife. Police have charged a suspect with attempted murder. There are 17,000 Jews in Stamford Hill. These families have lived peacefully alongside a Muslim community for many years. Now they must contend with stabbings, attacks on synagogues and the burning of Sefer Torah scrolls.
Like hate letters, these unprovoked and irrational attacks are the foul overflow of sickness — a collective spiritual illness instead of a solitary mental affliction.
The spirits of ordinary Muslim people are under threat from hate, spouted by some of their own religious leaders.
Listen to this extract from a sermon in Gaza, on the day that two Israeli soldiers were slaughtered by a mob. Dr Ahmad Abu Halabita, a former rector of the Islamic University, ranted: ‘‘None of the Jews refrain from committing any possible evil. Jews do not have any moderates or any advocates of peace. They are all liars. They all want to distort truth, but we are in possession of the truth.
‘‘Jews are the terrorists. They are the ones who must be butchered and killed.’’
His sermon concluded: ‘‘Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them.’’
That bloodthirsty incitement to murder is developed directly from the Qu’ran, as the Al-Muhajiroun ‘press release’ makes clear: Allah says, ‘‘And kill them wherever you meet them and turn them out from where they have turned you out.’’ (EMQ 2: 191)
Hatred is a chronic spiritual sickness which cannot sustain itself. Like a serious physical illness, it either burns itself out or it kills the body it is afflicting. But when it burns out, it leaves scars behind. Love is the opposite of hatred but it is not an instant antidote. Hatred cannot be doused by love, just as a flower in the barrel of a gun will not stop up the bullets. But love can be used as balm on the scars of hatred.
I have feared a conflict between Jews and Muslims in Israel for many weeks. The tension was lethal, weeks before Ariel Sharon made his self-serving visit to the Temple Mount.
With hindsight, it is clear that the hatred has been spilling over all year. On New Year’s Eve, 1999, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamanei greeted the West’s new century with a call for the destruction of Israel.
‘‘The hands of the US are fully stained with the blood of the Palestinians,’’ Khamenei told hundreds of thousands of Muslims who heard his sermon at Teheran University.
There was only one possible solution to unrest in the Middle East, he declared: ‘‘Namely, the annihilation and destruction of the Zionist state.’’
Hatred in an individual is mental illness. Hatred within a religion is a deep spiritual sickness. I pray this hatred will quickly burn out, and that our communities will join together to heal the scars.
SCHAMA'S SERIES IS A WAKE-UP CALL TO BRITISH JEWRY
October 06, 2000
‘‘No, but I know it is Margrette.’’ Of course the call had to be from America. Only in America do other people’s time zones mean nothing. And there was only one person I could not ignore at 3am.
Anyone else would wait. Whatever it was they had to tell me, if it was important, it would still be important after sunrise.
But it might not be safe to leave Margrette till sunrise.
I answered the phone. Margrette lives in Denver with her third husband. She was first married in the seventies to a close friend of mine, and they had three children, but the relationship collapsed when Margrette suffered severe depression after the third baby.
She had two more children with another man, who lived in the same town, did the same job, had even shared an office with her first husband. The man was almost a carbon copy, and their relationship went the same way — after the second child, they divorced.
Her youngest is 15 now. She brought all of them up on her own — there were boyfriends, and both her husbands were conscientious about maintenance, but the real work of being a parent was all done by Margrette.
And she is a great mother. All her children say so. But she is also a victim. A victim of two husbands who could not cope with her depressions, a victim of her father — who married her mother bigamously and died when Margrette was seven or eight — and a victim of her genes, which made her vulnerable to splenetic miseries which no quantity of chemical rescue packages can fend off forever.
This is how Margrette sees herself: as a victim. She cannot defend herself, because she defines her personality by soaking up suffering.
If she turned around and said, ‘‘Enough! I’m 50 and I’m not going to stand for all this any longer’’ where would Margrette be then? If she became a non-victim, would she become a non-person altogether?
I knew, as I lifted the 3am receiver, that she would not ask for my help. Margrette does not want me to intervene or find a way to make things better. She wants my sympathy, she wants me to help her accept that she is destined to be a victim.
And I hate to help her with that.
Margrette is Jewish, though for the first time she has married outside her religion. Her troubles are different to last time, but there are so many similarities that, as she lists the injustices against her, I feel I have been listening to this dead-of-night complaint for 20 years.
When she put down the phone — reassured, I hope, that her friends would not judge her by the things that went wrong in her life — I had lost the desire to go back to bed.
I made a strong coffee and walked through the village to knock on the back door of the newsagent’s.
The calm of village streets on a Sunday dawn, the patter of my dogs’ paws on the pavement beside me, and the slatey promise of rain, made me sure that synchronicities were sliding around in the morning air.
Synchronicity is the way life knocks two unrelated things together to make sparks. I can feel when they are about to happen, as if the air pressure changes.
I was sure that when I opened the paper, the first story I saw would feature a woman named Margrette, or focus on Denver, or involve one of her ex-husbands.
But I was wrong. The first piece I saw was a long discussion of Simon Schama’s BBC series History of Britain. I was immediately hooked, for the writer was focusing on the mass slaughter of Jews in England, hundreds of years ago.
It was not until I finished the piece that I began to reflect how it shone a light on the pain of my friend, Margrette the victim.
Schama describes the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 by Edward I, and the hanging of 300 Jewish elders in the Tower of London.
England, he says, was the ‘‘first country to perform a little act of ethnic cleansing’’.
More than 700 years later, Jews are being encouraged to regard ourselves as eternal victims, and history like this is being shovelled over us like dirt onto a grave.
A holocaust seven centuries ago — even documents of the time used the word. Then endless holocausts all the way to the Nazi slaughters. And beyond. Without holocausts, runs the logic of victimhood, what would the Jews be?
We are not driven by the past, any more than a boat is propelled by its wake. What happened in 1290 makes fascinating Sunday-morning reading, but it must not be allowed to dictate the future of a people. George Santayana said, ‘‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’’ but he was totally wrong.
By tying ourselves to the past, we relive it again and again. We define ourselves by suffering today and tomorrow what we suffered yesterday.
This is the truth of it: Those who cannot break from the past are condemned to repeat it.
By the time I saw this clearly, it was 3am in Denver. I rang Margrette to tell her.
be praying for a better Britain
September 22, 2000
ON the morning after your birthday party you open the window to let out the old air. There are plates smeared with the traces of food, stacked and slotted in the sink.
Glasses puddled with old wine and kissed with stale lipstick teeter on every surface.
The party is over. And you wonder how so much fun could have been enjoyed in this same, weary, sickly-smelling room.
The distance between past and present, and the way that time bundles itself into packages that don’t seem to relate to each other — these phenomena are never more shocking than after a party.
The fun was yesterday; the debris is today. All over the world, the Millennium party is over, and millions of people seem to be slouched over a weak instant coffee, without the energy even to run a hot tap.
In Britain, I have been charting the depth of post-millennial blues with a growing sense of unease. The initial reaction was to be expected — midnight struck, Year 2000 began, fireworks erupted and the Thames failed to burst into flame. The euphoria would soon begin to fade. When expectations are high, disappointment is felt more keenly. And expectations were colossal, though most people did not know quite what they were expecting. It was just a date, their logical minds kept repeating. But their emotional minds answered, ‘‘It’s more than a date. It’s the beginning of an epoch. This is history projected on the sky.’’
Many people believed they would witness the end of the world — an emotional response to an emotive date, and one which their logical minds struggle to fit into a scientific context.
In the growing hysteria, the Millennium Bug was devised, a worldwide and incurable computer fault which would unfailing destroy the digital network and leave us helpless without our artificial brain — the response of a time-conscious deity angered by our technological arrogance.
As it turned out, a handful of truckers with a grievance and a simple plan were far more able to bring a nation to its knees. The failure of this phantom virus gave me the first whiff of post-party blues. People seemed let down that the apocalypse had been postponed.
The Millennium Dome backlash followed, and the cynicism became palpable. People were prepared to hate that upturned saucer and its caverns of educational entertainment, not because it was on the wrong side of London or because some of its exhibits were broken, but because the whole project epitomised the naivete of 1999.
The Dome belongs to yesterday, when the party was in riotous swing. It is a weird white anomaly today.
I believe the New Labour government will stand or fall with the Dome. If it is bulldozed during the next few months, Labour will lose the General Election. If they can keep the structure intact, a second term is possible.
Refugees from the war-strafed Baltic states, many of them bombed out of their homes by British and American planes, were straggling into this country through the winter and spring, to meet a racism which was tribal in its hatred.
I had never seen the people of the United Kingdom snarling in disgust at visitors from other nations. Now that the party was over, gatecrashers would be beaten and spat upon. If they starved, it was their own fault.
If they suffocated in a refrigerator wagon, they had brought it on themselves. I have felt antisemitism in Britain since I moved here in the mid-80s, especially in some sectors of TV management.
But undisguised racism on the streets — this has shocked me. Perhaps, as an Israeli who was brought up in an era of passionate racial conflict, I am more sensitive to the distant rumble of guns.
I was a baby in Tel Aviv during the fight for independence, an adolescent in Cyprus during the civil war, and a soldier when the Arab-Israeli hatred boiled over. I know when violence is coming. It is coming now, on a foul-smelling wind blowing from Europe. In the scowling, sneering faces filmed on protest lines outside oil refineries last week, I saw the same emotions that excite gangs of bully-boys in eastern Germany and southern France.
Right-wing, racist, thuggish politics are on the rise again.
On the Continent they are openly identified with Fascism already. Do not pretend it cannot happen in Britain too. We cannot bring the party days back. 1999 is over. But the Jewish community, the most peace-loving people in Britain, can play a powerful part in putting love back into everyday life.
The real New Year is about to begin. January 1 was a champagne celebration — Rosh Hashana is a spiritual rebirth.
Our prayers next week will be for kindness and caring to flow more easily in our hearts, and for comfort and warmth to embrace all those we love. This year my prayers will be extended, not only to my family and my dear friends, and outward to all those who worship as I do — but to the Muslim women in peasant dresses and headscarves, who crouch with their children and beg for pennies outside Underground stations and to the well-fed people who hurl foul language and even cigarette ends at them.
This year my prayers go to the nurses and doctors, the teachers and school bus drivers, who fear a handful of militants will once again prevent them from doing their vital work and to the farmers, hauliers and fishermen who believe their own livelihoods are threatened by 2p on a litre of diesel.
In 2000 my prayers are for Britain. May we all be inscribed for a good year.
CAN SPREAD PEACE
September 15, 2000
ELEVEN things I wish I’d learned at school: One, it’s OK to say ‘no thanks’ when everyone else is saying ‘yes please’, and two, it’s dumb to say ‘yes please’ when what you mean is, ‘no, but I’ll wriggle out of this later’.
Three, kitsch is OK, and four, today’s kitsch is tomorrow’s modern classic — so buy kitsch, not just because you know you love it, but because it’s an investment.
Five, it’s only the good people who find it hard to justify their actions . . . the bad ones always have a compelling excuse.
Six, a statement doesn’t become true simply by appearing in a book. Seven, by next week you’ll have forgotten what all the fuss was about (what fuss?). Eight, you’ve only got yourself to blame.
Nine, some people tell none of the truth most of the time, and most people tell some of the truth all of the time, but nobody tells all of the truth all of the time. Or none of the truth all of the time.
Ten, Arabs are human beings. So are Jews. That’s the whole problem.
And eleven, the most important number in the universe is 11. I don’t have space to explain it today, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.
I was taught thousands of things at a succession of schools. Most of these facts and figures were not digested and never recalled. They just passed straight through me, like junk food.
As my teenage children brought more and more homework back each evening, I realised that less and less of what I had learned was relevant now.
My teachers tried to make me understand Latin — what use is that, when the serious languages of the 21st century will all be computer languages?
My textbooks contained not a single mention of the Nazi Holocaust, though the ovens of Auschwitz had been white-hot less than a decade earlier. Now, courses in Jewish history imply that nothing except the Holocaust ever happened to our people — everything you could possibly need to know is all there in Schindler’s List.
And my textbooks were very strong on the Jewish right to Zion. Israel was ours by the ancient decree of God, and at 10-years-old I had learned a dozen irrefutable proofs of this. I never understood algebra, but I knew why Jews were the Chosen and Arabs were not (see Item 10, above).
Children in Israel are learning the same lesson, 40 years on — or, if they are Palestinian pupils at refugee camps such as the one at Ramallah on the West Bank, they learn that Jews are occupiers and Arabs are the oppressed (once again, I’ll point you back to Item 10).
In the classrooms of Palestine, new textbooks are replacing the Jordanian and Egyptian volumes which have served a generation of Muslim youngsters. The rewritten texts, approved by Palestinian officials at every level, are less vitriolic but full of contempt and distrust of Israel.
The hatred is more subtle, though it’s still there — being built into the subconscious of a future generation of Palestinian adults, into the young men and women who will have responsibility for making peace work in our country during the next 20 years.
For if Muslim children do not desire peace with all their minds and hearts, it will be denied also to the Jewish children.
Maps of Israel in the new books, for instance, are clearly marked to show areas of Palestinian administration. But the rest of the country is unmarked. Even Tel Aviv is not named.
On another map, Jewish settlements on the West Bank are described as ‘‘illegally occupied’’.
Naim Abu Humus, the Palestinian Authority’s deputy minister for education, says, ‘‘Our curriculum is not anti anybody’’, and claims that Jewish textbooks do no use the word ‘Palestine’.
This is the politics of the playground, two squabbling tearaways shouting at each other, ‘My dad is bigger than your dad!’ It is my belief that this taunt summarises 1,300 years of fighting between Jews and Muslims — ‘My God is bigger than your god!’
At least 10 years will pass before textbooks are rewritten. Can we afford to shrug and accept another decade of corny propaganda that passes for a curriculum?
We do not have to. It is not books that will shape these young minds. Books, after all, were not my cultural driving force — it was television which gave me a wider view on the world and sent me hunting for my own truths. And for these youngsters, there is a medium coming which will surpass even television.
Israel today is the most internet-literate country on earth. The very high ratios of computers to schools, of websites to individuals and families, is mainly based on the enthusiasm of young Jews and the Israeli armed forces for new technology. But the resources can be made available to Muslim children too.
It is imperative that Israel’s government helps the Palestinians to get wired in. The quickest way to disperse old-style narrow-mindedness is to provide access to the new world of global infotainment.
When Muslim teenagers start ‘chatting’, as their Jewish counterparts do daily, with American and European friends online, the barriers will tumble.
Show a 14-year-old that he or she can type jokey, flirty, silly sentences to another 14-year-old 6,000 miles away, and see the reply flash up in seconds — those kids will not grow up thinking of their village as the only island of morality in a sea of lies, no matter what schoolbooks tell them.
Textbooks teach redundant lies, drip by drip, over years. The internet can explode them in seconds.
Get those kids online.
LUXURY REMOTE TO THE HORRORS OF MUNICH MASSACRE!
September 01, 2000
My life on September 5, 1972, was insanely remote from the horror of Olympic Village, Munich — yet I was living less than two miles away.
This is the seventh anniversary of the massacre — the seventh Olympic Games since Munich.
Today, I feel closer to the hostages than I do to the young entertainer, six weeks out of Israel and living like a film star.
The money I was spending was not mine, of course. I had arrived in Germany in June. Well known at home but unheard-of in Europe, I wanted to try out my powers outside the Holy Land.
I thought my psi ability might dissolve if I strayed too far.
Within days, I had been scooped up as a kind of society pet, by a rich man’s wife who loved to parade her personal paranormalist.
Let me call her Carla, since she is still alive. And I was her very personal paranormalist.
I remember she bought me a pair of patent leather boots that stretched up my thighs.
To make me appear the millionaire playboy, Carla would slip 1,000 deutschmark notes into the top of my boots, with a casual gesture.
At the Olympic Village, eight hooded ‘commandos’ under the Black September banner scaled the fence, armed with grenades and sub-machine guns. They killed two athletes who resisted as they stormed a dormitory on the Israeli national block, and took nine prisoners.
A twelfth, the wrestler Gad Tzabari, escaped by leaping through a window.
Carla drove a blue convertible Mercedes 280. This made up for the initial disappointment I had suffered on arriving in Germany.
A promoter had promised to park a Mercedes Pagoda for me at the airport. You were someone in 1972 if you drove a Pagoda. But the car wasn’t there.
Among the 200 Arab prisoners held by Israel, whose release Black September were demanding, was a Japanese murderer called Kozo Okamoto. He had opened fire on travellers at Tel Aviv’s Lod International Airport, in the luggage collection area, on May 30, 1972.
Of the 27 killed and 69 wounded, the majority were Catholic pilgrims from Puerto Rico.
Okamoto claimed at his trial he had hoped to die at Lod: ‘‘When we were young we were told that if we died we became stars in the sky. The revolution will go on and there will be many more stars.’’
Carla’s husband slept around. She gave me his cufflinks.
They were 22 carat gold, inlaid with diamonds, and I still have them.
The last time I wore them was to an awards ceremony in London, and my family travelled with me in our people-mover.
I lounged on the back row of the vehicle, looking at the diamonds glittering in the sulphur-yellow lamps along the motorway, reflecting that the jewels binding my shirt at the wrists had cost more than the car.
We were glued to the TV when the terrorists were granted helicopters by Chancellor Willi Brandt. The German leader had offered huge ransoms for the hostages and presented himself as a captive in their place.
The bargains were swept aside: helicopters, and free passage to Egypt, and freedom for the Arab 200 were the only demands.
But Egypt and Israel would not play along. Brandt believed he had no option — police marksmen opened fire on the helicopters.
I was playing table-tennis with my manager in Carla’s home when we broke the ball. I think I trod on it. The maid said there were more balls in the attic.
Rummaging through the roof-space, with a torch in one hand and a ping-pong-bat in the other, I found a photo album.
On the first page, I saw Carla with Hitler.
All the athletes were killed. One of the terrorists pulled the pin on a grenade. The helicopter burned like a small sun on the tarmac. We watched it on TV.
Carla was just a child, when the Fuhrer perched her on his knee.
Her daddy was an esteemed Nazi, and the Chancellor was a family friend.
It had all been 35 years earlier. I never told Carla I had seen the photograph.
I remember the cream leather in her blue Mercedes.
I remember King Hussein declared: ‘‘The vast majority of Arabs oppose the crime with all their hearts.’’
I remember Franz Beckenbauer lived in the mansion across the way.
I remember buying my first Gucci attache case. Hugging the leather. Smelling it.
Carrying it in a taxi, the day I halted a cable-car between mountain peaks.
And after 28 years, on the eve of the first Olympics of the 21st century, I remember 11 slaughtered heroes.
Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at http://www.uri-geller.com/ and e-mail him at email@example.com
WHOLE OF JERUSALEM IS OUR TEMPLE
August 25, 2000
There are very few things I would change from my past. If I made the smallest change to 1967, what would happen to 2000? Would I have lived to be here? Would I have met and married Hanna? Would my children be the same?
Sometimes I believe that, if I possessed a time machine, I would run those risks. When I study the 50 faces in the photograph, it seems that the pride and honour of being among that band must outweigh any danger.
Their heroism outweighed all danger on June 7, 1967, when Commander Motta Gur and his brigade overpowered the Jordanian Legionnaires to take Jerusalem's Old City.
Every soldier — and I was one of the nation's paratroopers, though my unit was fighting to the north of the city — faced the obliteration of the rest of his life by a single bullet or shellburst.
I risked my life; could I risk wiping it out now, when I have lived 33 years longer? Would I go back and put those years on the front line?
Yes, I think I would.
Motta Gur's first words as he seized Temple Mount from the Arabs are still echoed by Israelis today: ''Har habayit beyadenu!'' (The Temple Mount is in our hands!)
But in the 21st century, the cry of a hero has been twisted by irony. For more than three decades the Mount has been under Israel's law but Muslim control. Almost every rabbi holds that Jews cannot walk upon the Mount, let alone pray there, because it is such an ineffably sacred place.
The mullahs agree — Jews cannot go there. The Mount, in Islam, is Al-Haram al-Sharif, the third most holy place on the planet and the focus of millions of pilgrimages.
In a book called The End Of Days, to be published later this year, journalist Gershom Gorenberg argues that Israel should, for the sake of the peace process, admit that the Mount has never truly been ''in our hands''.
He says: ''The Muslims have had autonomy there ever since '67.''
I find this heart-breaking, to be torn between my love for my religion and my pride in Jewish bravery on the one hand and my urgent desire to see peace with the Palestinians on the other.
But after so many extra years of life, years I was willing to abandon for the sake of Jerusalem, I ought to have learned that spiritual faith is not about stark political choices.
Imagination, belief, trust and openness of mind are the measures of faith. Even while I was forgetting this, and while the talks at Camp David were collapsing, a book arrived at my home, by a Christian writer, from an imprint whose name I'd never heard: Gothic Image Publications. And this book demonstrated all four measures of faith, in full.
John Michell is a visionary historian whose reputation was made in the Sixties with The View Over Atlantis. His latest work is The Temple At Jerusalem, and he subtitles it A Revelation.
In fact it is a series of revelations, each opening out of the last, like a nest of jewelled boxes, to reveal an extraordinary theory.
The theory begins with the ancient dictum, ''A generation that does not rebuild the Temple is judged as if it had destroyed it''.
It concludes by proving that every generation has indeed been rebuilding the Temple — not metaphorically but physically, stone by stone. A real, tangible Temple.
Most extraordinary of all, these generations have been not only Jews, but Muslims and Christians and even Romans working the will of God for almost 2,000 years.
Michell takes the detailed blueprint for the Temple, laid out cubit by cubit in the Book of Ezekiel and lays it over a map of Jerusalem. Every feature of the ancient architect's plan corresponds exactly to a city wall, a major thoroughfare or a sacred place in Jerusalem.
What Michell terms 'the city's hidden geometry' is a precise replica of the Temple — six times larger.
Every cubit in Ezekiel — about 1.75 feet — is six cubits in the city, or approximately 10 feet. Jerusalem has evolved into the Temple itself, six times larger than imagined by the prophet.
''The northern side runs parallel to the north wall of the Temple Mount,'' writes Michell, 'the eastern side is marked by the east wall at the Golden Gate. The rectangle provides the framework for the grid of streets in the north-west quarter of the city, now called the Christian quarter. To the east of the Cardo, in the Muslim quarter, the other street grid takes over.''
The twin pillars of the temple are the two rocks —''Golgotha, the most sacred rock of Christianity, and the Rock of Foundation on which the Ark rested in the Holy of Holies of the Temple''.
Equidistant from each end of the Temple that is the whole of the Old City, they divide its axis into four equal parts.
Michell shows the work of rebuilding began with the Roman augurs, the priests of pagan gods who decreed a crossroads must be made, of the Decumanus maximus and the Khan al-Zait street — today represented by the alignment of David and Chain streets.
The numerical synchronicities are layered upon each other until the mind swims. Long after my initial doubts were smothered, the 'coincidences' of city design and temple architecture kept piling high.
I am convinced. The wranglings over individual aspects of Jerusalem, however sacred, are irrelevant. It is the whole which is our true Temple.
Har habayit beyadenu!
WELCOME TO JOIN US FOR DINNER — AS MY DOG'S MAIN COURSE
THE communications revolution is killing tolerance, not widening it. So many millions of bigots are given their say that racism and every conceivable kind of hatred, from disgust at disability to belief in racial purity, seem like mainstream concepts.
Al Gore is a man I have met on many occasions and I can testify to his fundamental decency and honest.
He has chosen an outstandingly competent running mate in Senator Joseph Lieberman.
I am certain he picked Lieberman for his keen mind and dazzling TV presence, far above his religious persuasions.
And even then, the chief factor in the Senator's standing as an Orthodox Jew was his deep moral rectitude and not the possible gains and losses at the polls: Gore is not a man to worry about the voting tendencies of rabid antisemites.
But the media's reaction was to fly into a swastika-patterned whirl.
'The first Jew ever to run on the US presidential ticket,' shrieked every leading article.
Yes? And? So? US presidents have included Abraham Lincoln, who suffered from a bizarre deformity called Marfan's syndrome; Franklin D Roosevelt, who was wheelchair-bound; and Jack Kennedy, who was a ferocious womaniser as well as not being a Protestant Christian.
In the 21st century, I don't believe any of those men would stand a chance. Lincoln was too weird — would you vote for a man whose TV debates looked like out-takes from the Addams family?
And Roosevelt, the polio sufferer — wheelchairs don't play well in modern politics.
Newspaper readers can cope with superbly muscled paraplegics, propelling their racing chairs along a marathon route, but they retain some grim prejudices about the disabled in politics.
What about JFK? His Democratic successor, WJC, was almost hounded out of office for sharing a cigar with a female intern.
If you think Kennedy's grip on power was unshakably strong, enough even to survive revelations about his relationship with Marilyn Monroe, imagine what chance today Clinton would have of remaining unimpeached if the National Enquirer printed photographs of him in bed with Demi Moore.
We are less tolerant than earlier generations and that is because we know more. We know more about prejudice, narrow-mindedness and contempt for the differences of others. In this climate, Al Gore is bold to pick an Orthodox Jew. But just in case a trend should develop for traditional Jews in positions of power, we have Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to remind the voters why they should never trust a politician in a kippah.
The holy man's drivelling about six million ordinary people paying penance of the sins of past lives reminded me of something, and I couldn't remember what it was at first.
Then I recalled how former England coach Glenn Hoddle was pilloried for saying that the disabled were being punished for sins committed in previous existences.
How one miserable past-life sinner, such as FDR in his wheelchair, can get to be US president, while others, such as my mother's uncles, have to die in the back of a lorry converted into a gas chamber — this is a theological point which is simply too subtle for me. I shall have to invite the rabbi to dinner and press him on the question.
Unless, of course, my Doberman guard-dog savages him first, in retribution for his past-life sins.
God-fearing men can make the best politicians — and the worst. Atheists can make terrible leaders — and inspirational ones.
I do not believe I am being impossibly naive when I say that in the polling booth we should think about the policies and not the faith.
The US must vote Democrat or Republican — not Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
But if America has to pick the government on the basis of religious persuasion, I'd like to make a few suggestions:
President: Jackie Mason. Since religion is a major issue here, the president must be able to diffuse it. Jackie can dismiss the Big Questions as amusing cultural quirks — ''My son, the President. But Mrs Lipstein upstairs, she can always trump that with 'My son, the Doctor'!''
Vice President: Bob Dylan. He can be Orthodox Jew, born again Christian or fundamentalist Muslim, depending on the political necessity and day of the week. Plus, everyone knows at least three of his songs.
Defence Secretary: Mahavira Vardhamana, Jain holy man. I happen to believe all politicians in command of armies or nuclear arsenals should be fervent pacifists, who believe their souls would be forfeit if they so much as stood on a beetle.
Health Secretary: Deepak Chopra. We should all spend much more time meditating and much less time paying insurance on private medical schemes.
Chief spokesperson: This is the big one. An outstanding press secretary can transform a limp government into a pillar of strength, a witless government into a creative powerhouse. The candidate's past politics are irrelevant — an ex-terrorist or a newly-freed jailbird would do, if their aura sizzled with the right mix of spirituality and wisdom.
Age, colour, religion — all these things are unimportant. The viewers, no matter how cynical they have been made by a surfeit of information, will see right through these things if the spirituality is right.
Two words prove the truth of what I am saying: Nelson Mandela.
I wonder if he might be coaxed out of retirement.
| WHY I WANT
TO RETIRE TO THE MOON
August 11, 2000
Not Palestinian, as I was born; nor Israeli, as I became in 1948; nor Cypriot, though I grew from boy to man there; nor Arab, for I fought hand-to-hand to prevent the destruction of my country.
Not American, though I enjoyed freedom and fame and wealth there; nor Mexican, though I was presented with a Mexican passport by the president, as my only payment for locating his nation’s multi-billion-dollar oil reserves; nor Japanese, though the months I spent as a recluse in the shadow of Mount Fuji were some of the happiest of my life.
None of these nationalities, but a citizen of the world. An Earthling, a Terran, a Gaian.
For reasons of tax, defence, law, census, travel and democratic government, becoming a world citizen is not an option for me or anyone else.
Even the poorest people must belong to a nation — as the wealthiest must. US super-billionaire Bill Gates differs from a starving Somali child in many ways, but the infant will live and die Somalian, not African or Gaian, as Gates will live and probably die a US citizen, and not New Worlder or a Terran.
I said ‘probably’ — some people say Gates is not an Earthling at all, but that isn’t the point I’m getting at.
And with his unimaginable wealth, it’s possible he will be able to postpone his death indefinitely through cryogenic freezing or organ cloning or body transplanting . . . but that isn’t my point either.
Bill Gates may not die a US citizen, because he may choose to adopt a new nationality — as I have done.
This year I decided to become a British national, and on June 23 I was appointed a British citizen. This morning my new passport arrived, registered in my full name: Uri Geller-Freud.
Already I can feel the archetypal British conceit, snobbery, welling up. I have the double-barrelled name — shouldn’t I set about acquiring the title to go with it? Sir Uri Geller-Freud . . . arise, Sir Uri!
Table, Sir Uri? Would you like that wrapped, Sir Uri?
Later this year I will be 54 years old. If my powers do not desert me, I can easily imagine that I will pursue my career for another three decades.
I cannot say with certainty that I will retire as a Briton. I might move back to America, now that my children are almost grown — every time I visit the States, I am awestruck by the vastness of the TV audiences and the immensity of the publishing market.
I might seek solitude in Japan once more. I might even return to Israel — when I imagine myself as an old man, my surroundings are not the toy-strewn rooms of a doting grandfather who babysits five nights a week, but the sparce apartment where my mother and I struggled through my childhood in Tel Aviv after my father left.
And maybe I won’t be an Earthling at all. Maybe I’ll be able to step right outside the jurisdiction of this planet’s laws, float up and away from the taxation and destruction. Maybe I’ll live on the moon.
That concept is no longer a figment of sci-fi. Academics, entrepreneurs, scientists — and, yes, dreamers — are trying to build a real world in zero gravity. The Space Island Group of California plans to link abandoned fuel tanks from the space shuttle, fusing them into a ring — a motel in orbit around the moon.
Economist Patrick Collins at Japan’s Azabu University is a guest researcher with the National Space Development Agency in Tokyo.
He doubts that Space Island’s lunar motel will be five-star.
‘‘The first ones will be more like hostels than hotels,’’ he warns. ‘‘Essentially, you just need a safe tank with a lot of windows. And a bar.’’
Space tourism will be big, within 10 years. After 30 years of neglect, the universe is about to become our favourite holiday destination.
The first interstellar tourist will be blasted through the stratosphere next year by MirCorp, an Amsterdam consortium which leases the Russian space station.
His name is Dennis Tito, a former US space programmer, according to New Scientist. Tito will be the first of thousands.
‘‘In surveys, most people say they’d like to go into space, and that they’d be willing to pay several months salary to get there,’’ says Patrick Collins.
‘‘People have got more and more money, but less leisure time, so they don’t mind spending tons of money, but they hate being stuck in traffic.’’
I’ll be at the front of the queue. Maybe I won’t be the first Jewish space tourist . . . but maybe I will.
And when I blast through the outer atmosphere, I’ll leave my nationality behind me, along with gravity and pollution and starvation and Microsoft Windows.
But I will take my faith with me. I may live and die British, American or Israeli — whatever.
Without doubt, I will be a Jew.
Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at http://www.uri-geller.com/ and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
dating won't hit shadachim
''That's why you believe it. Unless . . . unless it's about you or someone you know. Then it's all wrong.''
So I reached for the phone when I read at the weekend that the Jewish Telegraph was refusing to publish adverts for totallyjewish.com.
I wanted to hear it from the editor before I believed anything.
And then I called the editor at totallyjewish.com, David Garfinkel, since he had approached me a couple of weeks earlier to provide a Mindpower feature on the website.
I drew an ornate Star of David, which site-users can touch as a focus for their meditations.
The aspect of the website which has put the Sunday papers in a lather is not its coverage of Jewish spirituality, nor Jewish cuisine. It's something earthier than that — Jewish dating. Jewish sex.
The site has launched a matchmaking service, an online dating agency where wannabe lovers can leave their nicknames and contact details, along with a few tantalising glimpses of personal information.
Bubbly Brunette from the north-west, for instance, is 29 and likes a man to be a man. She also likes the simple things in life — like dumb-but-masculine men.
Max, a Sagittarian with a degree and no children, is probably not the guy she's looking for. He's a ''radical, mystical groove rider who's a shopaholic and chocaholic. A worshipper of aesthetics . . . up for anything that gets me dancing''.
He's looking for ''a super-fly rear-grooves funk-soul chick, of mind-blowing beauty and intelligence''.
And he may get lucky, for already there are 119 women registered at the site — with 197 men chasing them.
The homosexuals have got less chance — one lesbian, two gay men and, on the page for bisexuals, no one at all. Totallyjewish is also, apparently, totallystraight.
My regular readers must have noticed that most weeks I am perched on top of the match-hunting singles. I have no problem with this, especially since the whole of my career has been based on teaching people they can have everything their heart desires, if only they will be positive and optimistic and believe in their own power.
What could be more empowering than to put an ad in this paper or on the internet, appealing for friendship and love? If you don't ask, you will never get!
Jewish Telegraph editor, Paul Harris, tells me that what offended him about the website's ads was not the service it offered but the near-nude images of two Barbie dolls and the copyline: ''Get your juices going''.
The site is certainly raunchy — as well as a soap opera following two daters from first emails to pillow-talk, there's a regular advice slot from Garfinkel about sexual technique.
Women are told to get to grips with their date's 'pepperpot' in restaurants where the food is bad and the service is worse. There's a Ken-and-Barbie cartoon which makes the meaning of the euphemism quite clear.
Online dating, supposedly, is offending ''rabbis and community leaders''. The traditional Jewish mother is reported to be incensed as well.
If I didn't know better, I might imagine this was 100 per cent true and accurate . . . but I know it for the nonsense it is.
Jewish culture is deep enough and robust enough to adapt to new technologies. The rise of lonely hearts columns and online dating won't kill the old ways of matchmaking —but it will help many people who might have been left behind in the traditional methods.
I was thinking about this as I drove home from the QVC television studios on Friday night. My jewellery collection had been launched and, on my first appearance to promote it, every single piece sold out. In a 60-minute slot, we generated tens of thousands of pounds in sales.
I was staggered. The jewellery is stunningly beautiful — three rings, a bracelets and two necklaces, plus a pair of ear-rings and a pendant. All of it features rock crystal, the stone which I believe powers my psychic energies and can work mystical wonders even in lumps of insensate machinery.
But I had not expected it to sell out. I arrived home to emails pleading for stock from my own safe, including a charming message from a Jewish lady in London who wished me kol tov and Shabbat shalom, and said: ''I have been unable to get one ring in particular out of my mind with a spherical, rotating crystal in it.''
That piece is my favourite too. I spent months designing this collection, making hundreds of drawings on paper, assisted by David Kovacs — one of three Hungarian brothers whose father set up their jewellery business. Kovacs recommended a brilliant Italian company, and I insisted on using only Brazilian crystal, and on Friday I saw the fruits of my labour and the culmination of a 30-year dream.
Selling jewellery on TV will not spell ruin for traditional Jewish jewellers. I will still be able to find kosher food on every corner off Hatton Garden.
The businessmen there will still settle deals with a handshake which means more than a sheaf of signed papers.
And mothers will still gaze away innocently as they nudge their sons and daughters towards each other. Our heritage is as old as our history. We have no need to fear new twists.
the Dickens! I’m not such a Charlie to fall for that trick
can be used as blackmail. I opened a begging letter this morning which entreated
me to remember the proverb of Solomon: ‘‘Charity saves from death.’’
If I send the £10,000 which this writer is demanding with spiritual menaces, will I secure my own immortality? Is that the meaning of Solomon’s wisdom?
Or will my charity save another soul from death? The writer drops barely veiled hints: ‘‘Don’t know how I’ll be able to carry on if you turn your back on me, Mr Geller . . . how my wife would struggle to manage our four children if I was not here, I shudder to imagine.’’
The tale is layered in tragedy, each slab of bad luck glued to the next by the thinnest smear of false hope.
A business venture with his brother was booming —until his brother lost half their holdings in a Rotherham casino and absconded with the other half. (A good touch, Rotherham — but I wonder if there is really a casino there).
The writer’s first marriage collapsed with the business, but he bravely threw his heart and his credit rating back in the ring by marrying an older woman (with a disabled child) and joining a mini-cab firm.
The marriage prospered, with twins and then another child — a little girl, by the way, sickly but adorable.
And the taxi work was going well, until the girl required a lengthy course of hospital treatment. The writer is not afraid to spell out the word ‘cancer’. Eleven times. You will be relieved to know the disease is in remission —though it could come back at any time.
This devoted father spent far too much time at the girl’s bedside, neglecting his duty to the cab-hailers of Sheffield and to the finance company. His cab was repossessed — and without £10,000 to buy a new Ford, he will lose his home too.
There is one last chink of hope — the spoon he bent during one of my TV performances. That paranormal event convinced him I was genuine, perhaps even an emissary of God.
He has followed my career with awe ever since. Now he has but one request, a bagatelle for a man of my wealth — the loan of that £10,000.
Not a gift. The writer would die before he asked for a gift. Just a loan, to be paid off at £100 a month. With interest, if I wish.
And you, the reader, are wondering that I can be heartless enough to mock.
But it was the quote from proverbs which tipped me off. I’d read that before, in a begging letter, because it had sent me to the Tanach.
And it happens that many of my begging letters are filed — yes, here it is! The same letter, almost word for word, and the same name.
Even the ages are the same, and the sum needed for a new minicab. But the address has changed: Two years ago, the writer was in Sheffield.
Perhaps last time I sent back a note of regret, or encouragement — just enough to make the writer mark down my name for a second attempt.
Because begging letters are a business. Criminals have made their living from hard-luck epistles since the birth of the postal service — Charles Dickens called them ‘‘public robbers’’ and noted wryly that ‘‘what will not content a begging-letter writer for a week would educate a score of children for a year’’.
I have been keeping the best of mine for several years, with an idea of cataloguing them online.
That at least would make the fraud harder to commit, since victims could compare every letter with the internet archive. A duplicated letter is certainly a lying letter — no honest beggar sends out the same plea to everyone.
My favourites are the outrageously greedy, like the New York woman claiming to be a Hebrew and Yiddish interpreter in the courts. She needs plane tickets to get her children and grandchildren over from Israel — perhaps I could use my influence with El Al.
And she dreams of a three-bedroomed condominium, with car-parking, which could be hers for £265,000. It would be worth it, just to get her away from her awful neighbours (they’re Italian, and you know what that means!).
Plus, her teeth are playing her up, and because of her allergies she needs ivory falsies. She knows it’s a lot to ask, but if I want to call her and discuss it, she’ll be happy to talk to me in Hebrew (perhaps she has read that I miss Israel).
The practised conmen will always barter. One Indian ‘businessman’ demanded $200,000 earlier this year. We’ve been haggling, and I have worn him down to $10,000.
He has sent me a business plan, which is just a barrelful of jargon with no punctuation — I suspect I was not supposed to read it, just accept it as proof that he was serious about investing my $200,000 or $10,000 in a viable economic venture.
There’s no emotional blackmail in this plea, but a subtler professional kind (I won’t change his words): ‘‘If you tell me that u don’t have sufficient money, i will really be in a doubtful condition about the skills i thought you had. Really tears are rolling in my eyes writing to you, I swear on God.’’
I am grateful to that counterfeit cab-driver for pointing me to Solomon’s Proverbs (10:2) — for in my version of the Tanach, it is not exactly ‘charity’ which conquers mortality: ‘‘Ill-gotten wealth is of no avail, but righteousness saves from death.’’
|DIAMOND STILL SPARKLES IN FACE OF IMPENDING DOOM|
July 21, 2000
NEWSPAPERS are part of the Shabbat ritual in our home. On Saturdays, as on every other day, we have eight or 10 of them dropped in a bundle outside the kitchen door.
But on Saturdays, instead of stacking them beside the exercise bike to be speed-read as I churn the pedals at 80kph, I spread them loosely over the oaken table, pour myself a coffee and scan the headlines.
Then I start to fillet The Times, separating its numerous sections and placing the business, children's and travel supplements to the side, like bones.
I neatly tear out two morsels which for three years I have consumed first.
One is John Morgan's 'Modern Manners'. The other is John Diamond's diary.
This harmless habit has been broken. Earlier this month John Morgan fell to his death from the fourth-storey window of his rented apartment off Piccadilly. He was 41 and his weekly column on etiquette had never been more popular.
A Book of Modern Manners was in the shops, selling well, and Morgan was becoming a regular on TV and radio. He was on the point of buying a Knightsbridge flat.
His brand of playfully old-fashioned advice for readers who agonised about how to set the places for a dinner party, seemed to amuse everyone, even people like me who would happily wear shorts and trainers to a royal garden party.
Morgan's sheaf of dandy's laws were not snobbish. They were bizarre and fascinating, like the rules of ballroom dancing or synchronised swimming.
John Morgan left no suicide note. Though friends say he was prone to sudden fits of intense depression, which passed quickly, I believe it is probable he was killed by a burst of nostalgia.
I know the building where he lived. My friend, actor Terence Stamp, had an apartment in the same building. Leaning out of his window on a Sunday afternoon, to enjoy the view of some of London's finest architecture — a view he was planning to leave behind for Knightsbridge — I believe the writer toppled forwards.
He died from skull injuries, suggesting a headlong fall rather than a leap.
I have been surprised by how much his death shocked me. Perhaps I felt unconsciously that he was a colleague, since I have been a columnist not only on The Times but also for GQ, where Morgan was style editor.
But more than that, the shock stems from the unexpected suddenness of the death. This was clearly a man with an enviable career just waiting to be enjoyed. He had many friends in the media and no rivals — the field was his to take.
John Diamond's column was also missing on Saturday. A footnote said his latest operation on cancerous lumps in his neck had been successful. Sadly, 'successful' for Diamond means simply that he did not die on the operating table. His disease, which has already robbed him of most of his tongue, is expected to be terminal.
For three years he has been charting its progress. At first the prognosis was good — a high percentage of sufferers from that type of cancer survived, he was told.
I remember feeling a chill, which every reader must have shared, at Diamond's own assessment of the odds — 50-50. Either he would live or he wouldn't.
My biographer Jonathan Margolis and I discussed Diamond's columns a couple of years ago.
''Why is he treating death so trivially?'' I asked. ''Why is he still writing about traffic jams and shopping queues? When I meet terminally ill people in hospitals, my thoughts are overwhelmed by how deep life is and how strong. And those revelations keep the trivia away for days afterwards. Does he live all his life on the surface?''
Jonathan, who knows Diamond professionally, told me: ''John doesn't see himself as an expert on death or dying. He is still alive, after all. And all the things that filled his life before he was ill, they're the things that still surround him now.''
''He's Jewish, isn't he?'' I asked. ''But agnostic. I think he will rediscover his Jewish spirituality.''
Perhaps he has, but he hides it well behind his laconic, mischievous lines.
''Last week,'' he wrote in one piece, ''we had an odd dinner party to celebrate Rosh Hashana with the sort of sometime-Jews who are married to lapsed Catholics and say, 'Remind me again, is Rosh Hashana the one where they blow that funny trumpet thing, or is that Passover?' ''
Because I see very often the real value of our human spirit in healing, I wish John Diamond could find faith in God. I believe that devout prayer can help any disease, and I know that scientific studies are bearing this out.
In April, for instance, the British Psychological Society heard that positive thinking had a measurable effect on cancer cells.
Prof Leslie Walker at Hull University followed 80 women receiving radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery and other treatments for breast cancer.
Half these women were trained in relaxation and visualisation techniques, using meditation to imagine their bodies fighting back against the disease.
After nine months the positive thinkers all had stronger immune systems. Walker suggests the Mindpower practice could have reduced stress levels, making the body more receptive to healing.
John Diamond has spent three years showing, inspirationally, how an ordinary life can be lived in the face of oncoming death. John Morgan spent those years demonstrating how to live life with elan and flair.
By sheer accident, the juggernaut has mowed down Morgan. The last, and most trenchant, lesson of Modern Manners is that we all live with the promise of death.
And for the correct etiquette in this situation, we must search in our souls.
July 14, 2000
Africa cannot wake up from this AIDS nightmare
IT IS Sunday 5am. I am at my computer because a nightmare woke me. This nightmare was a new one, but I knew its type, as soon as my head had flinched up from the pillow.
Staring around me, half-propped on one arm and trying to make sense of the faint red glow of the digital clock, I knew this nightmare had come to settle on my chest.
A crouching incubus will not be startled away by waking. It puts its face close to my head, to study my breathing and keep watch on my eyelids. At the first sign of relaxation, it slips its nails under my skin. At the first return of sleep, it stabs my brain.
I was standing at the edge of a beach in southern Israel, between Tel Aviv and Gaza, at a remote place where I would sometimes go scuba diving.
I was staring across the water at Africa, all unrolled like a map. I could see it all, from Cairo to Capetown. The soil was cracked and brown, even where the forests of Zaire and Gabon should have been. The coastline was singed black.
I could feel the waves of heat rolling off the continent, but the water between us cooled them. The edges of the map started to curl, and flames burst from the centre.
In a few moments the whole of Africa was a fireball, and the heat was so intense that the waters protecting me began to evaporate.
My breath was searing my lungs. My eyes smarted. I tried to raise a hand to protect my face, but my arm would not move. I looked down and saw my flesh was melting, like plastic under a blowtorch, bubbling together and dripping away.
My arm and my hand were part of the glue of my torso.
Now you understand why I have no desire to sleep again tonight.
I know what spawned the dream. Friday’s Independent, roughly folded on a stack of magazines, is still open at the headline ‘Doomed to die, a generation of African children’. And on top of it is this week’s New Scientist.
The children will die of AIDS. As the 13th International AIDS Conference opens in South Africa, 35 million people have the human immuno-deficiency virus.
Seventy per cent of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, where in some countries one adult in three is HIV positive.
The UN predicts half the 15-year-olds in southern Africa will die from the disease. Nineteen million people have already been claimed.
Zambia lost 1,300 teachers to AIDS in 10 months during 1998. There are not enough doctors and nurses to provide basic care to the victims — AIDS has cut swathes through hospital staff too.
One Irish missionary nun, explaining to reporter Mary Braid how many Zambian villages were peopled only with grandmothers caring for orphaned children who were born HIV positive, said AIDS was rampant in the countries least able to combat it, and added: ‘‘You would wonder how the devil thought the whole thing up.’’
One unexpected line of research suggests Jewish males are less susceptible to AIDS than most African men, though not for any genetic reason. We were circumcised as babies, and the foreskin appears to play a dangerous role in transmitting the infection.
Doctors are divided over the reason, though it could be the inner fold of the foreskin is the part of the penis most likely to tear during unprotected intercourse or ulcerate when infected by other genital diseases.
Some sceptics argue that circumcised men are more likely to live by strict religious tenets, and of course that is true of many Jews.
But controversial evidence reported by Ronald Gray at Baltimore’s John Hopkins School of Public Health reveals another element — in a group where 187 women were HIV positive, 40 of their partners contracted the virus. All were uncircumcised.
None of the 50 men who had been circumcised tested positive.
That’s an infection rate of almost 30 per cent among non-Jews — and zero per cent among Jews and other circumcised men.
The paper, in the New England Journal of Medicine, provoked outrage, because the women had not been treated for their HIV — and the men had not even been informed of the risk.
This obviously does not imply Jews are immune to AIDS. I have seen too many tragic cases at the Weizmann Institute, with the brilliant physician Dr Zvi Bentwich, to fall for that delusion.
But it does give real weight to the Jewish tradition that circumcision is cleaner and healthier.
Among non-Jews, it is one of the most mocked and reviled of our customs, often used to suggest that we are less masculine than other men with their foreskins, because there is a little less of our manhood.
We are also taunted with a Freudian obsession with the shape and size of our penises.
But comparisons of AIDS fatality rates in Benin and Cameroon, where boys are often circumcised, and Kenya and Zimbabwe, where they are not, has shown the practice can offer very significant protection.
The probability of infection seems to be two-and-a-half times higher in uncircumcised males.
Africa is burning up. My nightmare will not go away. The simple operation which has been part of Jewish culture for millennia will not stem the pandemic.
But we have a desperate responsibility to promote every defence that can possibly help.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at www.uri-geller.com and e-mail him at email@example.com
July 7, 2000
SAINTS ALIVE! HOW CAN VATICAN BEATIFY PIUS IX?
EDGARDO Mortara was two-years-old when he contracted a fever. His parents feared he would die as he lay in his cot, and begged their rabbi and friends in Bologna’s small Jewish community to pray for the boy’s recovery.
Saints alive! How can Vatican beatify Pius IX?
EDGARDO Mortara was two-years-old when he contracted a fever. His parents feared he would die as he lay in his cot, and begged their rabbi and friends in Bologna’s small Jewish community to pray for the boy’s recovery.
The Mortara’s servant girl also wanted to intercede with God for the child. But she was a Catholic, devout and simple-minded, and she truly believed that the little boy’s soul would be cast down into the Christian hell if he died unbaptised.
Under the pretence of mopping his burning face, she sprinkled water over his brow to baptise him. The boy survived, and the maid told her priest what she had done. Four years later, pressed by hardline advisers who claimed canon law obliged the Church to care for every baptised child, Pope Pius IX ordered police to seize Edgardo from his parents, to drag him from his six brothers and sisters. Despite the pleas of his parents, which roused international condemnation of the Vatican, Edgardo never saw his family again. He was more or less adopted by Pius as a son and became a priest.
After his death in 1940, his diaries revealed a tormented and guilt-ridden mind. Edgardo was far from being the only Jewish boy baptised into the Catholic faith in the teeth of his family’s pleadings and anguish.
During his reign, between 1846 and 1878, Pius banned Jews in the papal states from receiving secondary and higher education, limited their rights to hold property or take employment, and ruled their evidence was inadmissible in court.
He laid the ground for the rise of genocidal antisemitism in Italy and across Europe. Yet in September Pius IX will be beatified — the first stage of his elevation to sainthood.
It is hard to understand how a Pope who prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem this year could regard such a man as saintly. It is hard to imagine how this promotion could have been conceived as anything except a deliberate insult to Judaism.
Even the Catholic writer Margaret Hebblethwaite said: ‘‘It is gratuitously offensive to Jews. It is silly. But the Vatican is not very sensitive to criticism.’’
Pope John Paul II is no antisemite. His ambition, in the words of the former Catholic Herald editor Cristina Odone, ‘‘is to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great armada of God’s troops on earth’’.
Growing up in Wadowice, southern Poland, the man who was then still Karol Wojtyla lived in a house owned by a Jewish family. He played football for the town’s Jewish team and his closest friend, then and now, is 80-year-old Jersey Kluger.
Karol’s first, and perhaps only, love affair was with a Jewish girl, Ginka Beer, who was said to have ‘‘stupendous dark eyes and jet black hair’’. She was also ‘‘slender’’ and ‘‘a superb actress’’, and Karol developed a sudden and irresistible interest in the theatre which compelled him to attend all Ginka’s rehearsals.
Decades later she visited him, among a group of his old friends, at the Vatican. When the Pope remembered Ginka’s mother fondly, he was shocked to learn she had been killed at Auschwitz. Of 1500 Jews in Wadowice, only 80 survived the Holocaust. ‘‘We have a paradox here,’’ remarked Elan Steinberg, of the World Jewish Congress. Paradox is an understatement.
Here is the first Pope to visit a synagogue, the Pope who decreed antisemitism was sinful, now declaring that a child-snatcher and a Jew-hater is ripe to be called a saint.
Few would be surprised now if Pius XII, who ignored the Nazi slaughter of Jews and even promoted it, became a candidate for beatification.
This can only be understood by regarding the roster of saints with a worldly Jewish eye. Most Christians, Catholic or not, believe a saint must certainly have been a very good, kind and spiritual person.
The first saint to spring to anyone’s mind would be Francis of Assisi, a kind of Gandhi of the Middle Ages, who talked with animals and healed with a touch of his hands. People like him have existed in our history — but very few of them. Most have earned the distrust or outright anger of the Church, the upper classes and their governments: nothing is more dangerous to the establishment than a man or woman of true principles. One of this rare and inspirational figures was Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, a priest whose hands and feet wept blood from stigmata — mysterious wounds with no physical cause, following the pattern of Jesus’s crucifixion scars.
He has no prospect of a sainthood, for he defied the Vatican throughout most of his career. St Francis was a stigmatic. So too is a teenage Catholic girl, Audrey Santo, who lives near Boston, Massachusetts. She has been in a coma since 1987, but many thousands say she, like Padre Pio, has answered their prayers for healing.
These people are rare and miraculous. They deserve the veneration and love of all humanity. Karol Wojtyla too is a figure of inspiration to many, who is said to possess a marvellous gift of healing. But when the Pope acts to beatify antisemites and kidnappers, we know ‘sainthood’ has nothing to do with saintliness. The title ‘Saint’ has become a politician’s bauble, as meaningful as a life peerage or a civil servant’s long-service medal.
No one, of any religion, should look to political ‘saints’ for inspiration and guidance. Turn instead to the rarest and best of humanity — the truly good.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
June 30, 2000
Crystal clear solution to stop you overheating
Do you remember Joan Caulfield? She was a beautiful girl, a siren in the year that I was born — 1946, when Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby were fighting over her in an Irving Berlin musical called Blue Skies.
At the climax, clad in a bowl of fruit and little else, she sang HeatWave as Astaire danced himself to destruction.
‘‘We’re having a heatwave/A tropical heatwave/The temperature’s rising, it isn’t surprising/She certainly can! Can-can!’’
Sex and violence and heat . . . even in the most innocent of Hollywood eras, the three were welded together. As the dance scenes were shot at the Paramount studios, the baking Santa Ana winds were searing Los Angeles, and Raymond Chandler was noting: ‘‘Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks.’’
Heat makes us mad — for sex and violence. The brutality of heat has been revealed as Israel sweltered under a sun that sent murder rates soaring, to one every 17 hours.
Perhaps the cruellest was the killing of a two-and-a-half year old toddler, allegedly beaten to death with a belt by his mother's lover, because he upset the man’s enjoyment of a Euro 2000 football match on TV. Another dead was Alon Michaeli, stabbed in a dispute over a deckchair on a Tel Aviv beach.
Michael Baram, who had three children, died in a brawl at a car park in an apparent outburst of road rage. A cursory inspection of newspaper archives reveals this horror is not confined to Israel or Jews. All human beings are in danger when the mercury rises.
During the 1995 heatwave that scorched Glasgow, six killings occurred in 24 hours. William Downie had his throat cut with a bottle, John McFarlane was struck with a sword, Alex Donnelly was stabbed on a flight of steps.
In New York, when temperatures were above 90F for more than a month in 1988, the murder rate climbed 75 per cent. In Paris eight years later, there were riots during the heatwave, with cars set on fire and firefighters stoned by a mob.
Laboratory experiments show human aggression appears to rise constantly between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, before levelling off and even falling — it appears that when it’s really, really hot, we cannot even muster the energy to argue.
Other statistics link violence not to heat but to the fronts of air pressure which travel with it: crime tends to rise in Dallas as atmospheric pressure falls, as it does in Brisbane.
It isn’t just fists that fly. Researcher Alex Lerchl at the University of Munster has shown more boys are conceived when the weather is hot. When there’s a cold snap, Lerchl believes, it’s a sure bet that more girls will be born nine months later.
Lerchl theorises, on the basis of statistics drawn from German birth records between 1946 and 1995, that hot weather could damage sperm before it leaves the testicles.
The female X chromosomes could wilt in the heat, giving the male Y chromosomes a stronger chance. Sceptics say the male scrotum, where sperms are stored, is the best regulated environment in the human body, with the maximum possible number of sweat glands working overtime to keep the seeds of life at optimum temperature.
Even in the hottest countries, male organs do not overheat. More probable is the natural urge for humans to get together when it’s warm, and stay firmly wrapped up when it’s cold.
Hot weather means frequent sex, and that means the stronger male sperms are in place and ready to strike when a woman ovulates.
Infrequent sex favours the hardier, longer-lasting female sperms.
One major factor affecting both sex and violence in hot weather is alcohol. When it’s hot, we drink. And unless we are saintly and restrict ourselves to iced water, each drink will loosen our inhibitions. Even in the cool of the evening, people will be more likely to leave their homes during a heatwave, to seek out friends and socialise. And to drink.
When heatwaves strike, I advise you to turn not to chilled sangria or ice-filtered beer, but to the powers of the mind. The mind is always cool. Try this simple mental exercise:
You are holding in the palm of each hand a clear crystal. Each crystal radiates cold. It does not draw warmth from your body, but pulses out a soothing chill, forcing the prickly heat from your body in steady, rhythmic pushes.
You feel the welcome cold travel through your forearms, chilling the marrow in your bones, and riding on up through your muscles into your shoulders.
Here the cold collects, in a pool which envelops your neck, and the cold fumes waft up into your brain, and the cold droplets drip down into your rib-cage, icing your mind and freezing your lungs.
By the time the cold has frozen in a thin casing around your heart, you will be glad to take a deep breath and suck in a chestful of heat from the outside world.
The realm of the mind is as real as the space beyond. The cold is as genuine as the heat. You experience them both, and both are valid.
Trust in the strength of your mind. When violence threatens from outside, remember — there is always peace within.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
June 23, 2000
WE NEED TO FIND A CURE FOR REPRESSIVE LAWS
ALMOST two years ago I joked in these pages that the Jewish identity resided in a mere few genes and that, when their DNA sequence was identified, I wanted to own the patent .
It is no longer a joke. It’s a deadly farce. The human genome — that endlessly echoing sequence of letters G, T, C and A — has been transcribed.
The international consortium of government-funded scientists which promised to complete the work within a decade has been overhauled by a maniacally energetic private firm called Celera.
The name means speed. All 34,000 million letters were read, according to industry rumour, by the end of March 2000.
It is now late June. The sequence is not yet publicly available, though it will be fully online later this year, promises Celera’s chief, a molecular biologist and Vietnam veteran named Craig Ventner.
Others call him ‘Darth Ventner’, the Fallen Angel, the Enemy of Science. His enemies regard him with the perfervid hatred of Bible Belt fundamentalists gazing into the heart of Satan.
Ventner’s company is alleged to be using a 1980 US Supreme Court ruling to establish its own copyright over swathes of the human genome. Enemies claim it intends to patent the essence of humanity.
The court’s decision, handed down more than a decade before reading this DNA ‘book of life’ was even a possibility, makes it legal for any company to patent living organisms.
Celera’s business practices are clouded in accusations and counter accusations. Scientists from the official Humane Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland fear Ventner wants to identify the genes most likely to be useful in combating diseases such as cancer, and stake a claim to them.
Only when the choicest cuts have been reserved, so the conspiracy theory goes, will the ‘book of life’ be available for public reading.
Ventner regards these fears as paranoia. Celera, he says, will simply present the DNA readings to clients via sophisticated software — buyers such as pharmaceutical companies will pay for the software, not the rights to the genes themselves.
What Celera Genomics has achieved is, beyond any question, astonishing. Ventner’s personal dynamism, his obsessively competitive style and $300 million of sponsors’ cash have enabled his banks of computers at Rockville, Maryland, to translate our code of life.
Inside almost every human cell a chemical blueprint is coiled. Unravelled, this double helix, like an immense spiral staircase, would stretched out for two metres. The steps of the staircase are pairs of chemicals — Guanine, Adenine, Cytosine and Thymine. GTCA.
All the billions of letters have now been identified and set in sequence. Although we do not know what each gene does, or even which genes are junk, which genes are useful and which genes are something inbetween — junk which sometimes becomes dangerous — we do have a basic map.
You have seen these facts many times before. Perhaps they make no more sense to you now than they have done in any previous news story, documentary or opinion column. These figures and those droplets of chemicals are hard to grasp with the imagination.
So here is something all too easily imagined: a hereditary disease, first identified in the 30s, causes spongy deterioration of the brain in a significant percentage of babies born to Ashkenazi Jews.
Canavan disease is a genetic disorder which causes toxins to build up in the infant’s brain. Physical disability and severe learning difficulties, blindness, seizures, loss of muscle tones and, in many cases, an early death result.
There is no treatment. Canavan’s affects one Jewish child in 6,500. The odds might seem low, but like every other genetic nightmare threatening an unborn baby, the true ratio of chance is 50-50 — either the child escapes or it doesn’t.
Because the disease results from a gene mutation, an early pre-natal test should be possible. The disease will not be picked up on an ultrasound scan but it will register on a specific gene test.
There is no cure, but parents could at least make the choice to terminate the pregnancy.
That may seem a harsh solution to a harsh predicament but, in families where there is already a disabled child, such a test could be vitally important to the care of the children who are already born.
And the test exists. It was developed by Miami Children’s Hospital in 1997, and the hospital holds a patent.
Administrators are negotiating licenses with about a dozen labs which will be able to perform the test, and it is expected that each lab will have to pay a royalty of $12.50 to Miami Children’s for every single Canavan’s test carried out.
In other words a pre-natal test for this terrifying condition could be available in every hospital in the world. Instead it will be provided by only a handful of American laboratories, all of which must pay the patent holders every time the test is carried out.
Canavan’s disease brings untold heartache to every family it touches. But we will not be able to combat it properly until the blood-sucking patent laws are radically altered.
Now imagine that situation multiplied a million times. Imagine every hereditary disorder, from autism to schizophrenia, leukaemia to breast cancer, heart disease to diabetes, all of them hedged by the hope of a genetic cure.
And all of them denied the chance of any cure by repressive laws which exchange untold human wealth for a fistful of dollars.
Imagine that, and you are now able to imagine the nightmare of those four inscrutable letters: GTCA.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
June 16, 2000
Nothing will keep me away from ceremony
I WAS honoured this week when two dear friends asked me to marry them.
I would be their minister in an ocean’s edge service at dusk, a declaration before God to all their family and friends that they loved each other, that they wanted to devote all their days to each other and to raising their own family.
I have known one of them since the late 1980s, an acquaintance forged during some now-forgotten writ or countersuit.
Brought up in an Orthodox background, he is an unusually spiritual man for an LA lawyer, with a spiritual creed that is unusual in any profession or country.
I will call him ‘Jacob’, because the core of his beliefs, as he has carefully explained them to me, is that life is a ladder which we can climb to a higher self — or descend, into a moral morass.
He has lived with his partner, who follows a more conventional Jewish pattern of worship with unfussy earnestness, for four years.
I have dined with them a dozen times, and I know they will make wonderful parents. I’ll call Jacob’s partner ‘Elliot’.
They are gay, of course. It isn’t that which makes me doubt whether I should perform their wedding ceremony. If they simply wanted to be married, that could be done within Judaism.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose decisions affect 1.5 million US Jews, agreed earlier this year to support any rabbi who officiated at same-sex weddings.
This bold move was warmly welcomed — the predictable voices of disapproval were widely ignored.
‘‘We’re all incredibly proud of the Reform movement for taking the stand,’’ said Rabbi Jay Perlman of Temple Share Emeth Congregation in Creve Couer.
‘‘The rabbis’ statement recognises the dignity and humanity of every single person.’’
It’s not only the US. In Canada, Rabbi Michael Levenson is offering gay marriages at his Temple Shalom in Winnipeg. Jacob and Elliot could enjoy a kosher wedding, if that was what they wanted.
I’ve talked at length to my family and close friends, searching deeply to find the right decision.
One friend, a married woman, argued that I must perform the service, as an act of love to Jacob and Elliot, and as an act of honour to the 100,000 gay men thrown into concentration camps by the Nazis.
There are less than a dozen survivors now who wore the pink triangle, a badge of the worst degradation and persecution. One historian, Dr Klaus Muller, has written: ‘‘Marked with a pink triangle, they were the lowest of the low. There was no support network like there was for political or Jewish prisoners.
‘‘They were put into slave labour squads, subjected to torture and some to terrible medical experimentation.’’
Another friend asked me if, subconsciously, I had doubts about the marriage because I knew Jacob and Elliot were intending to adopt children. My answer came instantly and confidently: ‘‘They’ll make great parents. No kid could ask for two better dads.’’
I know they’ll have the support of adoption agencies and courts in California — I am proud that Israel too would offer recognition to them as parents. The story of Matan Berner-Kadish, a four-year-old Jerusalem boy with two mothers, has shown the world Israel’s depth of love for the family.
Matan has an American-speaking Mommy called Nicole, and a Hebrew-speaking Ima called Ruth. He is biologically Ruth’s child, by artificial insemination from a sperm donor, and he has a baby brother, called Naveh, born to Nicole.
The Israeli High Court has ordered its government to register Nicole as Matan’s second mother — a ruling which echoes earlier court cases against El Al and the army, awarding benefits to gay partners.
One judge on the three-man panel dissented. Judge Abd al-Rahman Zouabi said he felt the decision sanctioned an ‘‘abnormal family unit’’. If love is abnormal, if caring for two small children is abnormal, if the need to declare lifelong devotion is abnormal — then the idea of normality terrifies me.
We saw a nasty glimpse of old-fashioned normality at the Western Wall earlier this month, after Israel’s parliament passed a bill threatening seven years’ imprisonment to any woman praying aloud at the site of the Second Temple.
Dozens of women came to defy the law, which directly contradicts a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
As the women gave praise to God, there were men jeering and yelling ‘Shame’ and ‘Quiet’ at them. At least four men had brought eggs to throw at the protesters.
What kind of law must be enforced by hurling eggs at women in prayer? To any sane person, isn’t that abnormal? Love between two people, of whatever gender, and a mutual longing for children — what could be more normal?
With so much good on their side and so much that is bad set against them, surely Jacob and Elliot deserve the ceremony of their choice. I have read the vows they have prepared and I know the beauty of the Pacific shoreline setting they have chosen.
And yet I wrote to tell them today that I could not act as minister, and phoned to explain my decision. I am a friend who loves them, but there is nothing in my being which qualifies me to intercede for them with God.
A minister must be a man or woman of spiritual authority — or legal authority, such as a registrar or a ship’s captain. I am a maverick, not an authority figure. I am a friend, not a guru.
I cannot marry Jacob and Elliot. But nothing will prevent me, if they will permit me as a friend, from standing on that beach to witness their vows.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
June 8, 2000
A PSYCHIC OR A PSYCLIST - CALL ME WHAT YOU LIKE
CHAT show producer Trent Ridley put a confiding arm across my shoulders after we recorded his programme in LA last month, and guided me to the back of the set, away from the ears of technicians and visitors.
''Stay away from 'the paranormal' if I were you,'' warned Trent. ''Don't use it any more.''
''Don't use it? The paranormal uses me! How can I stay away from it when it follows me around everywhere?''
''I mean the word,'' he said. ''Just the word. 'Paranormal'. It's taken a dive, it's got all the wrong connotations. It means flakey, it means tacky. It means passe.''
For the past four or five years, I've called myself a 'paranormalist'. Before that it was 'psychic', which was a very respectable term for a long time, before the invention of online predictions and lottery forecasts.
Before 'psychic' it was 'spoonbender'. It doesn't matter much to me how I designate myself — one tabloid recently labelled me an 'ex-underpants model', and I've been called a lot worse than that.
My philosophy is simple — label me what you like, but don't spell Uri with a 'Y'. And don't libel me.
I have to face the truth of what Trent told me, and admit that what I call myself matters to many people in the media. Impressions are shallow, and labels are sticky. When I use the wrong word to describe what I do, I risk tarring my own name.
What do I call myself? In everyday life I think of myself as a Jew, of course, but thats a word which has had to fight for its dignity for centuries, and it is only in my lifetime that it has become a universal badge of pride.
My dictionary of slang notes that, since before Shakespeare's time, Jew and Jewish were all-purpose adjectives of abuse. Jew-boys and Jew-girls were grasping, avaricious, wealthy, untrustworthy, deceitful and mean (as well as uncircumcised and abstaining from pork).
Thats quoting the lexicologist Jonathon Green, by the way. I don't know whether he's Jewish, but his work is completely factual and in no way racist. (On the same page, he defines 'Jesuit' as a male homosexual, which is a tidbit of anti-Christian slang I'd never heard before.)
Green lists two other slang uses of 'Jew': in the Forties and Fifties, American blacks called the boss 'the Jew', and in West Indian patois 'Jew' meant any rich white man.
And did you know chicken soup was 'Jewish penicillin' in Sixties' America? Green points out that hot soup clears blocked nasal passages, by stimulating the mucous membranes.
'Yid' is a word reclaimed too, though I never use it. There's an aggression about it, like a black calling himself 'nigger' or a gay man calling himself 'queer'.
I'm starting to see Tottenham Hotspur fans, especially on the internet, calling themselves 'the Yids' — for many years that word was the taunt of opposing fans.
Leo Rosten's book, The Joys Of Yiddish, remarked in 1968 that Yiddish speakers would say 'yeed', which was fine. It was only the ignorant 'yid' with a short 'i' that could give offence.
So perhaps I should launch a campaign to reclaim 'psychic'. Hand out badges which say, 'Psychic And Proud'. Tee-shirts which urge, 'Sing if you're glad to be psychic!' Maybe a TV series called Psychic As Folk.
I'm psychic. Got a problem with that? No? Good.
But confrontation isn't my style, and I don't want to give credence to some charlatans and phone-line phoneys who demand thousands of dollars over dozens of calls to lift imaginary curses or break runs of bad luck.
That's a vicious scam, and since they are happy to call themselves psychics, I shall just have to leave the word alone.
The answer is to coin my own. I am unique, and I deserve a unique label. I am . . . what am I? A SuperMind? I like that — it suggests a muscular torso in Lycra, with a sacred stone blazing on his forehead and his Y-fronts outside his tights.
No, that would revive the 'underpants model' tag.
So am I a parabiorhythmist? I was in the Paras during the Six Day War, and biorhythm science is intriguingly mysterious. But I can hardly say the word, and no reporter could spell it.
Am I a psyclist? I love my bike. But people would say I was pedalling nonsense.
Am I a pscientist? That looks great, but some people might mistake me for a small-minded, sceptical, imagination-dead scientist.
Maybe I should just settle for Gellerist. Or an Urtist. My name means simply 'my light' and perhaps my job description should reflect this. Am I a light-bringer, a reality dazzler, a light fantastic, a shining light?
But none of these capture my essential modesty. I will have to keep on exploring. Exploring. That's what I do.
I am an explorer. I can't call myself 'explorer Uri Geller' in case people expect me to go on expeditions, but how about 'explorologist'?
Explorology: The study of the unknown . . .Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
June 2, 2000
‘NEW JEWS' ARE WILLING TO EMBRACE ETHOS OF THE ZEROES
I PLACED a bowl of shimmering Waterford crystal on our dining table this Shabbat evening, and partly filled it with flat, blue glass pebbles before filling it almost to the brim with water.
On the surface of the water I placed three coin-like candles, which drifted and trembled from rim to rim.
The sunshine gradually faded as our meal lingered — we eat in the conservatory, a long avenue of glass jutting out towards the swimming pool and the Thames on the north side of the house.
As the daylight dimmed, the candles became a focus, until the whole table seemed to be set around them. There is no more beautiful sight than small flames against English dusk.
I chose the bowl, the pebbles and the candles in a feng shui shop near Covent Garden. The assistant explained that water favoured feminine Yin energy and fire typified masculine Yang power.
The two balanced perfectly in a sea of blue, and if I placed them at a northerly point of my home, I would help my career to flourish.
Many readers will wince at the idea of enhancing the Shabbat experience with feng shui lore. I was tempted to the idea when I read that Carole Meltzer, one of America’s gurus of Eastern tradition, had been advising Californian Jews on celebrating Passover.
‘‘Do not seat the husband opposite the wife,’’ warns Meltzer. ‘‘Positioning spouses in opposition makes people choose between male and female energy.
‘‘Passover is about joining together. Better put a guest opposite the host and the wife in the middle.’’
At my own table, I prefer to seat myself in the middle, and my wife across and to one side of me. We do not wish to dominate our meal but to share it — guests are often placed at the head of the table, since they are the most honoured of the company.
My instinct is wholly Jewish, but it finds a pleasing echo in feng shui. My instinct for the candles would also satisfy the Chinese sages. Could it be that feng shui and Judaism are two sides of the same talisman?
I find it easy to enjoy the appeal of this 4,000-year-old nature religion, which offers a kaleidoscope of rules and patterns to put your life and your decor at one with the landscape.
Feng shui provides unlimited opportunity for spending money on furniture and decorations. If it had no higher spiritual purpose, the incentive to spend on luxuries would be enough to guarantee its success.
The pleasure it brings to my spirit, and the inspiration these minor pleasures of home furnishing deliver to my soul, make feng shui a true delight.
I am not alone. In Britain and Israel, across Europe, and especially in America, the trivial purchases of life are becoming the ones which give new energy to our spirits.
If we buy a cup of coffee, we are no longer satisfied with something bitter and filtered, warm and wet. We want freshly-ground beans, and a choice of them — Indonesian, South American, Kenyan and Indian.
We want every conceivable variant of milkiness — latte, au lait, capuccino or plain americano.
If we buy a candle, it must be hand-rolled by a woman from a village co-operative in Nicaragua or Gujarat, earning a living wage and with access to decent health care and clean water.
If we buy a wicker chair, the wood must be from sustainable forests, and the seat must be woven by children who have at least good access to real education.
We are conspicuous consumers, but we are also renegades from the rat-race.
Sociology has a word for us — we are Bo-bos, Bourgeois Bohemians. The term, coined by David Brooks of the US Evening Standard, encompasses dotcom millionaires and pro bono lawyers, media consultants and soap salesmen (provided the soap is manufactured by a black South African collective and marketed via catalogues printed on recycled coconut paper).
For Bo-bos, says Brooks, ‘‘life is not about making money. It’s about doing something you love. Life should be an extended hobby. It’s all about working for a company that’s as cool as you are.’’
Or worshipping a God who is as cool as you are.
I am a Bo-bo, and I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. It is the natural state of any successful Jew — take pleasure in what you do, and do it well. Don’t let money cramp your spirit, and don’t be afraid to spend money either. Capitalism just caught up with Judaism.
Our religion has a conservative image, for all that — perhaps because we have stood by our beliefs while all humanity’s spirit was in flux during 4,000 years.
I am strongly in favour of presenting a new face to the new millennium, a face informed by the oldest wisdom on Earth.
Since we will never relinquish our spiritual certainties, why not invent a new shell, a fresh skin?
We are more than Bo-bos —we are New Jews. We appreciate the teachings of other cultures, such as Chinese laws of energy through water flow and submission to our landscape. We are open to old beliefs and new conceptions.
Let’s rebadge. Let’s regroup behind a new corporate image. Let’s embrace the ethos of the Zeroes, the fresh decade, and be a regenerated incarnation of our ancient race. A reinvented culture for a revitalised era. New Jews.
Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
May 26, 2000
'ANGLES' ARE WATCHING OVER US
I AM sometimes accused of hating science. Sceptics and sarcastic journalists regard me as the epitome of anti-science, a peddlar of superstitions or mumbo-jumbo who recoils from the rational as a vampire flies from daylight.
They are very wrong. They accuse me because they cannot explain my powers with current science.
But I trust science much more deeply than the sceptics, because I believe science will one day define the energies of the paranormal.
One day we will possess scientific explanations for telepathy and psychokinesis. Science will understand precognition and prophecy. And scientistics will see the face of God.
My faith in science took a great leap upwards when I learned this week that Israeli physicist Sorin Solomon had proved the existence of angels.
Solomon's angels are not the white-robed, gull-winged trumpet-players of Hollywood epics. They are mal'akhim (agents of God).
In the 11th century, Spanish philosopher-poet Yehudah Ha-Levi declared angels to be immortal, and 21st century science proves him right — angels cannot die and their immortality saves human beings from certain extinction.
Solomon leads a team at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which set out last year to create a model of life at its most basic level. They drew a flat grid, and in every square placed a 'mortal' — an imaginary lifeform which could not breed, could not think and which sooner or later would die.
Across the grid they then scattered a handful of 'angels' — immortal lifeforms — which flitted about and, wherever they landed, would enable the mortals to reproduce.
Solomon expected the mortals to die out anyway. Sooner or later the angels would wander into barren patches where life was already extinct — and, in the absence of angelic aid, the remaining pockets of mortals would fade away.
Instead, as the team conducted countless experiments, they found that even a solitary angel was enough to sustain an island of life. Wherever the angel led, the blind, unthinking mortals would follow.
The research drew excited interest from many academic disciplines across Israel — from the creation theologist Moshe Idel, from the applied mathematician Achi Brandt, from Henry Atlan and Tamar Weiss at the university's school of medicine, and from stock market expert Haim Levy.
They found the model worked at all levels of life. It accurately demonstrated how sea-borne bacteria which need only sunlight to survive will seem to follow the sun.
It showed how investors, even at their most ignorant, would gravitate to the healthy stocks and shares. It showed how a virus such as AIDS spread, even as they destroyed their hosts.
It showed how elephants and horses could evolve, without any species between — no elehorses or equiphants. And it showed how major religions survived, though each was radically different from the others.
The angel of the bacteria was the sun. It burned everlastingly, and wherever the sun spilled, the bacteria would flourish.
The angel of investors was the bullish stock, multiplying capital. Wherever money was made, bankruptcies receded.
The angel of AIDS was sexual intercourse, and the angels of evolution were the minute factors which gave any species a unique foothold — the trunk of the elephant, the speed of the horse. Solomon's angels, he explains, ''constitute the difference between death and life''.
In religion most of all, divine intelligence is clearly visible as the angels intervene. The immortal truths are what enable faith to survive.
The oneness of God, the power of prayer, the simplicity of doing good, the necessity of observing holy laws, the indestrucibilty of the soul — these things are mal'akhim, our angels.
Where we remain true to these ideals, our faith survives and spreads. Our people survive too.
But when we abandon our angels, we become merely mortal. Atheists, and doomed to die.
The angels of Judaism are too powerful ever to let our faith crumble away. Even when the assault of the mortal seems unstoppable, the angels have always led the Jews to safety. According to Sorin Solomon's wisdom, it is a scientific certainty that this will always happen.
It would be fascinating to know what Solomon's team make of the idea, being seriously debated by some leading Catholics, that humans were moulded from hominids, or primitive apemen, by extraterrestrial visitors to Earth around 300,000 years ago.
This thesis, which draws on the myths of the Sumerians and the Biblical tradition of the Nefilim, suggests that our ancestors were genetically engineered by 'Emissaries for the Universal Creator' — in other words, angels.
Angels or aliens, their existence is not impossible, according to the Vatican theologian Monsignor Corrado Balducci. This expert on demonology, who is the leading exorcist of the Archdiocese of Rome and a member of the Catholic Church's Curia or senate, believes there is intelligent life on other planets, and that like humans it is aware of God, of good and of evil.
''They are beings,'' he said last month, ''more advanced than us. Their nature is an association of a material part and a spiritual part, a body and a soul, although in different proportions to human beings on Earth.
''Angels are beings who are purely spiritual, devoid of bodies, while we are made up of spirit and matter, but still at a low level.''
With every step towards spiritual understanding which science takes, I believe humans rise a little higher.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
May 19, 2000
JEWS AND ARABS ARE ALL MEMEBERS OF ABRAHAM'S FAMILY
A DEAR friend, one of the few people who was kind to me during an awful childhood year as a kibbutz boy, called this week.
Her name is Sarah, and she is a fervent woman. I told her once that, if she had been born Russian she would have been a Cossack, and if she had been born Japanese she would have been a Samurai.
But she was born Jewish, on a kibbutz, and she is an Arab-hater. Sarah was the girl who chased off the bigger boys when they threw sticks at me and saved handfuls of bread from her plate when I was too sullen and sulky to eat with the families.
She spoke to me like I was a little stupid, a city boy who would never understand how human nature was when it had been stripped down to raw components. She still speaks to me that way.
In Sarah’s eyes, it is an Israeli’s duty to detest the war-loving people of Syria and Iraq, the spies of Jordan and Lebanon, the Saudi and Kuwaiti gluttons. To hate especially the cheating Palestinians, the lying land-robbers who hide behind a shield of children.
She hates them with a mild reasonableness. She tells me that to spare them an inch of trust or sympathy would be a betrayal of her ideals, and her parents’ hard work and the dreams of her whole race.
She asks me, mildly, reasonably, whether the ordinary people of Europe, including the British, spared an inch of sympathy for the Jews who were obliterated by the Nazis. Today I told her about the findings of Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, which showed the Semitic gene pool has been almost constant for the past 4,000 years.
Since the time of the Pharoahs, the children of Abraham have maintained their racial characteristics. The essential factors in our biological make-up are no different today than they were in early Biblical days.
Long before Solomon and David, our nature was defined. Sarah, naturally, was delighted by the report. She questioned me closely as I explained that Hammer had studied and compared the genes of more than 1,300 men and boys, from all over the Semitic world.
The seven Jewish groups — Ashkenazi, Roman, North African and Ethiopian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Iranian and Yemenite — all showed a consonance of the Y chromosome so clearly that only one conclusion could be drawn: they all shared a common male ancestor. There was a patriarch. And the Bible calls him Abraham. Excited and amused, Sarah still tried to keep her control of our conversation and the whole friendship. She is always in charge when we talk.
‘‘Anyone could have told you this,’’ she said. ‘‘Read your Torah, we don’t need genetics to prove the scriptures.’’
‘‘I have read the Torah,’’ I replied.‘‘And I think Abraham had two sons. Right? It wasn’t only Isaac. That’s where the Jewish line started.
‘‘But Isaac had an older brother. Ishmael. And the Arabs claim common descent from Ishmael, so Arab and Jew, we’re all descended from Abraham.
‘‘Tell me if I’ve got this wrong, but doesn’t a devout Muslim revere Abraham, El Khalil, the Friend of God, above anyone in the Bible?’’
‘‘You ask me about the Koran, I have no idea,’’ Sarah snapped, ‘‘but I can tell you that anything an Arab says to a Jew is a lie.’’
‘‘It isn’t what Arabs say. I’m still with the University of Arizona. The geneticists looked at 29 populations. Not just Jews — Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Druze, Saudis, and Semitic clusters in Gambia and Germany and Russia and Egypt and Austria . . . even here in Britain.
‘‘And along the Y chromosome line, we are all virtually identical.’’
‘‘Listen to this,’’ I said, ‘‘this is Dr Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Programme at New York University School of Medicine: ‘Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham’. That’s the scientific view.’’
Sarah was silent for a long time. ‘‘Like you said,’’ she answered finally, ‘‘it’s all in the Torah.’’
Another pause. ‘‘But how come we don’t diverge more over 4,000 years?’’ The single father of all these nations, so clearly described in Holy literature for thousands of years, seems an impossibility to a 21st century mind — even one steeped in Orthodoxy and insular politics.
But the Tucson study is not the only piece of research to show that Earth’s six billion people are all descended from a very small family.
Biologist Brian Sykes, professor of Human Genetics at Oxford’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, believes all Westerners are descended from just seven women who lived between 8,000 and 45,000 years ago — well before the time of Abraham.
He is so confident that maternal or mitochondrial DNA from one of these seven can be found in any European that he has given each of the types a name —Ursula, Xenia, Tara, Helena, Katrine, Valda and Jasmine.
The latter is the most likely mother of most Semites — born in Syria after the Ice Age, Jasmine’s people learned that seeds grew into plants and so became the planet’s first farmers.
Animals were domesticated, instead of being hunted in the wild. And nomadic traditions passed away.
Jasmine’s tribe settled in the Middle East. After thousands of years a man was born who rejected pagan gods and worshipped the one true deity — even willing to sacrifice his beloved son. And the rest, as they say, is scripture.Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
May 12, 2000
Everybody has the power to log on to God.com
THE Bible as a Mills and Boon romance — if anyone but a rabbi had written
it, the concept wouldn't have merited even two inches of news reports.
It was a great idea, of course . . . 100 years ago, when Lew Wallace dreamed up his epic Bible spin-off, called it Ben-Hur, packed it with voluptuous slaves and torture scenes and a chariot race, and enjoyed one of the biggest bestsellers in history.
Rabbi Sidney Brichto, whose 16-volume paperback rewriting of the scriptures has just been published as The People's Bible, is way behind the curve.
It's not enough to feature a love scene between David and Bathsheba, casting the King of the Jews as a chisel-chinned young doctor and his consort as an adoring trainee nurse.
We've already had the Bible as a comic-strip, the all-nude singing-and-dancing Bible, the Bible as rock musical, the Bible as Hollywood schlockerama.
If Rabbi Brichto, who lives in Middlesex, wanted to stir some scandal, he should have given us a porno Bible. Maybe call it Emmanuelle In The Highest.
Sex scenes or not, religion will not survive the 21st century if its preachers keep using books. God's word can no longer be spread on paper. God needs an internet presence.
The web address www.God.com has been registered, but not by the chairman of the board of directors at Heaven Inc. This catchy dot.com has been coined by Network Solutions, a multi-billion operation set up in the mid90s to register clever internet names.
If God wants His dot.com back, he'll either have to bid for it — $50,000 minimum — or do what Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs did when someone nicked his moniker . . . call a couple of favours in and make the boys an offer they can't refuse.
Once the Almighty is online, He'll have to design some sticky content — text, graphics and features that keep the net-users coming back.
Already there are dozens of places on the web to read the Bible, search the Bible, download, print and cross-reference the Bible — and the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and Vedas, the Buddha's sermons and the Tao Te Ching.
One site, maintained by the Jesuit order, posts a different passage from the Bible each day and invites visitors to use it as a prayer. Every month 20,000 people do that.
Already there are live radio and even video broadcasts on church web pages. I can watch the minister preach in a Toronto evangelist church as easily as I can slip into a city synagogue.
Already there are thousands of cults online, proliferating and disintegrating so fast that even the dedicated team set up by Professor Jeffrey Fadden at the University of Virginia can't keep up. His site,www.relfreedom.org, monitors new religious movements.
But God.com can transcend all of these. It can be universal. It can be omnipervasive. It can provide what the internet lacks, and desperately needs — a unifying faith.
I am imagining a resource which bridges all boundaries and religious divides, creating a common place for prayer on the internet.
The internet, with its 250 million users and its servers in every nation of the world, is not about any one belief. It comprises them all. It is a global church, one faith, all gods and one God.
God.com could be the web's own church, where everyone is free to pray as they wish, without restriction. There would be prayers to be read, listened to and downloaded — traditional prayers of all types, new prayers and prayers submitted by users.
God.com would offer guidance in prayer, helping worshippers to learn the ways which best suit them for praying, both at the computer and throughout the day.
There would be spiritual advice on achieving relaxation, countering doubt, sensing the presence of God, choosing the right words, asking for what is most truly needed.
Prayer groups would be encouraged, with individuals joining small 'clubs' of regular prayer-sayers, or using web technology to link up with other users at the site.
Could this daydream do the world any real good? A prayer experiment by Randolph Byrd with 400 cardiac patients at San Francisco General Hospital produced dramatic effects, akin to the discovery of a breakthrough drug.
Another study found heart patients who had someone praying over them — without their knowledge — suffered 10 percent fewer complications.
''It's potentially a natural explanation we don't understand yet. It's potentially a super-or other-than-natural mechanism,'' said heart researcher William S Harris, of the Mid America Heart Institute at St Luke's Hospital in Kansas City.
They studied 990 patients admitted during a year to the institute's coronary care unit. The patients were randomly divided into two groups. In one, patients were prayed for daily by community volunteers for four weeks; the other patients didn't have anyone assigned to pray for them.
Researcher Robert Hummer at the University of Texas in Austin combined data on lifestyles across America with mortality figures. After filtering out influences such as alcohol abuse, loneliness and gender, he found one common factor — religious belief promotes longer life.
People who attended church at least once a week tended to live to an average age of 83, while the agnostics died eight years earlier.
In other words — prayer works. And there is a large body of data to back this up.
God.com isn't online yet. But you can launch your own start-up company right now. Just look into yourself. And say a prayer.
Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
I’d have been proud to have a spell as a witch!
I AM alive because I am a man. There is no doubt in my mind that, if I had
been born female, I should not be living now.
I might have survived my infancy — a British sniper’s bullet came within inches of my crib, and I believe I had God’s protection.
I might have survived my teens — the miraculous appearance of my dog in an underground cave where I was trapped seems to suggest God’s hand hovered over me then too.
As a young woman, I might never have been sent to war, and the Jordanian shrapnel which ripped through my left arm would have maimed some other soldier.
But I do not believe that God’s closest care could have protected me from His own law. In the Torah, (Exodus 22) He proclaims: ‘‘You shall not tolerate a sorceress.’’The King James Bible phrases this decree more brutally — ‘‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’’.
I have been called by many names — paranormalist, psychic, magician, conjuror, mystic, fraudster, guru, freak. Even sorcerer, even wizard. But never sorceress. Never witch. My powers have been greeted with wonder, amusement and disgust, but I believe their emotional power would have been five times greater if I had been born a woman.
I could not have hidden behind patter and flamboyance. As a woman, I would have been a witch. During the witch-culls in 17th century Europe, some villages saw every female — from the babies to the crones — slaughtered. The whisper of the word ‘witch’ was enough to condemn a woman to death.
At the dawn of the 21st century, very little has changed, whether we are talking about the most repressive Islamic cultures or the most noisy advocates of democratic culture.
Two demonstrators and a policeman were killed in Saudi Arabia last month, and 17 more people were hurt, during protests against the arrest of a sorcerer.
The man, who was not Saudi, may simply have been selling talismans and amulets.
Another ‘sorcerer’, a Sudanese faith healer, was put to the sword by the Saudi Interior Ministry, on ‘black magic’ charges. He was one of several witches beheaded since the mid-90s.
And in Laurinberg, North Carolina, a high school teacher named Shari Eicher, who had been a practising Wiccan or witch for just over a year, was suspended from her job on religious grounds.
School governors may have heard rumours that Shari and her husband were devil worshippers — in fact, they were old-fashioned eco-activists, whose religion focused on nature and astronomy instead of the Christian gospels. ‘‘My students learn what they are supposed to learn,’’ insisted Eicher. ‘‘How I worship my concept of the deity is none of their business.’’
Perhaps these acts of bigotry do not concern you very much. We are ordered, after all, not to tolerate a sorceress.
Did you remain as impassive at last year’s horrific reports from Tanzania, where lynch mobs murdered up to 5,000 people, most of them elderly? Persistent rumours said the killings were about witchcraft only superficially — the real force driving the slaughter was the resurgent trade in human body parts and skin.
Grandmothers were hanged for having bloodshot eyes, young girls on ludicrous charges of cannibalism and human sacrifice.
The East African frenzy against witches was not simply a village phenomenon — it pervaded the cities and was stoked by governments.
Kenya’s president, Daniel arap Moi, ordered a Commission into the Cult of Devil Worship which concluded that Freemasons, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were part of a blood-drinking Satanist revival.
From Mormons to Jews is a short step in the march of hatred.
One Ethiopian woman, Kessaye Tevajieh, who was airlifted to Israel with her husband in Operation Moses, was forced for years to deny her Jewishness to preserve her life.
‘‘Ethiopians believe that Jews are witches, that they possess the evil eye, that they can ruin crops just by looking at them or walking by a field,’’ she said. Judaism has the deepest mystical tradition of any religion. I would argue that anyone steeped in Kabbalistic lore is deeply versed in witchcraft — and that clearly includes most rabbis.
Our religion, above all, is a natural one, defined by its rituals of everyday life. The word for witch is ‘macha’shefa’, but in Yiddish it has a slyer meaning — ‘‘be careful, she knows things, she has power’’.
Thankfully, some Jews are beginning to preach pagan virtues alongside orthodox beliefs. At Israel’s annual feminist conference in the Ramat Efal conference centre 18 months ago, a Wiccan named Starhawk bewitched the audience as she explained her creed.
Born Miriam Simon in Minnesota, she said she ‘‘stressed the sanctity of the earth, the human body and nature’’.
Another coven priestess, Lexa Rosean (born Ora Leiba) who runs a shop called Enchantments on Ninth Street in New York’s East Village, turned to witchcraft in her 20s.
‘‘I’d been feeling I was on the outside with Orthodoxy, where I could only be a wife or a mother.
‘‘What attracted me to witchcraft was I could be a seductress, a warrior, a poet.’’
Seductive, warlike, poetic: I have aspired to all those magical ideals. I am forever a Jew — I would be proud to be a witch. Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
April 28, 2000
MY GOD WAS REBORN WITHOUT A WHITE BEARD
I CEASED to believe in God in 1958. My mother had taken me to Cyprus, where
my stepfather was trying to run a hotel during a civil war.
I went to a Catholic school and already, at 12, before my barmitzvah, I was feeling soul-lonely - the loneliness of a human being whose spirit has been exiled from its faith.
The newspapers loyal to each side fought a war of images, vying to outdo the enemy in reporting the atrocities. One sickening photograph has been imprinted on my mind ever since.
Perhaps if I saw the original now - and I know I do not want to - it would be quite different to my memory. But I doubt it.
This was an image which burned itself onto the retina like a magnesium flash.
There was a Greek-Cypriot family. They had been murdered by Turkish-Cypriot terrorists and their bodies heaped into a bath-tub. Two of the shocked, staring faces were clearly visible.
The caption said these people must have known their killers. Their village was one of many ripped to tatters by the strife, neighbours and even in-laws thrown at each others’ throats by the eruption of ancient race hatred.
To an Israeli boy, whose father had fought for a foothold on his homeland, it seemed tragically incomprehensible - families being slaughtered by former friends, because they shared an island idyll, one that had been common territory for hundreds of years.
Since 1958, of course, there have been so many more images of atrocity, via ever more vivid media. Black-and-white TV showing me the massacre in Biafra. Colour pictures of the aftermath of jungle battles in Vietnam and video images of mass starvation in Africa.
Live footage from the nosecones of guided missiles. Web cameras giving minute-by-minute coverage of the sniper alleys in Bosnia. But the picture in my mind will always be on crumpled, tattered newsprint of a father and mother, a grandmother and their children, clustered in a mass of limbs that trailed over the side of a bath tub.
It was then, at 12-years-old, that I first framed a basic charge against God: ‘If you exist, how can you permit this? If you permit this, how can I feel anything but hatred for you? And if I hate you, and you permit such meaningless atrocities, wouldn’t it be better for all the world if you did not exist?
And so God died. Many millions of others have killed him the same way. I happened to work it out for myself, but I’m certain someone would have planted the idea in my mind within a few years.
When my God was reborn, sometime in my 30s, it was not as a white-bearded patriarch with the power to overturn human actions with a snap of his thunderbolt fingers. I do powerfully believe, and have never ceased to believe, that there are creatures of a higher intelligence and more sublime spirituality which possess that power of intervention.
We sense them only as intangible flickers at the edge of reality - deja vu, premonitions, flashes of telepathy.
Perhaps the creatures are God’s angels. Maybe they are aliens. They are not God. Compared to the divine energy which suffuses all the universe, these creatures are as insignificant as we are.
For six months I have watched with growing puzzlement a debate among Bible archaeologists about Asherah, the wife of the Hebrew God. According to the Torah, Asherah must not exist - ‘You shall have no other gods besides me,’ decreed the white-bearded patriarch at the summit of Sinai. But according to all the mythology of the Middle East, Asherah did exist, in almost infinite variations. In Abyssinia she was Astar, in Arabia Athtar, in Babylonia and Assyria Istar or Ishtar.
In Rome she was Astraea and in Persia Sitarah. In Greek the word is Astarte, who among the Celts of Northern Europe was Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra and Eastur.
This word, of course, is also the Christian ‘Easter’.
Evidence that Asherah was worshipped alongside Yahweh, a female deity who made his male godness whole, has been uncovered by Professor Ze’ev Herzog in Tel Aviv University’s archaeology department.
He has uncovered references at sites in Judah and further south, dating back only 2,800 years, which suggest Israel prayed to Asherah centuries after Solomon and David lived.
This idea has been refuted, with rising shrillness, by devout Jews on all sides. I count myself a true Jew, if not a devout one - and my pride in my people is strengthened by the concept of a female component in the divine. This makes us stronger, not weaker.
It seems that Jews knew, almost 3,000 years ago, what we supposed was a spiritual revelation so fresh that we call it ‘New Age’. Our ancestors saw there was one God, and an all-powerful one.
They understood this divine energy was present in events that were irreconcilable - feasts and famines, murders and miracles.
They expressed this in the most natural way, ascribing to God a feminine power as well as a masculine one. It was not a question of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, just as in a human marriage one partner is not saintly and the other wicked. Our forebears knew better than that.
It seems they might have known much better than us altogether. When we investigate the findings of scholars such as Prof Herzog, we should not be wondering, ‘How does this compare to current theories?’
We should ask, more humbly, ‘What have we forgotten which our ancestors knew?’
Uri Geller's novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.