THESE STRANGE ENERGY forces go far, far back into my childhood, almost as far back as my first memories. Sometimes I see myself as a small child when I project the motion picture of my life on my mental screen. Usually the first scene that comes into my mind, one of the most beautiful I can remember, is an Arabic garden across from my home in Tel Aviv. There are beautiful old trees and a high, rusted iron fence patched with wood in some places. And there’s a little pond near an old house. The garden has grown wild. No one has cut the grass for years. I might be three or four years old.
Some parts of the garden are dark, for the trees cut off the light in strange, mysterious patches. And I see myself there. Suddenly, starting from that scene, I see a total connection with the universe. I see the darkness of a deep, deep blue. And billions of stars, the Milky Way. And I see myself going through that universe. I hear strange voices and see brilliant colors.
Somehow, the film keeps going back to my early life, and I see myself growing up. I see my dog, my parents, my school. I see myself playing my own private games in the garden. One leaf alone is a huge tree to me. And all the grass is forest, forest, forest. The flowers are too big to be trees here. So I imagine they’re a different kind of tree, on another planet. My father had brought me shiny bullet heads, sometimes copper ones. I would build a little round dune and put the bullet heads in it, pointing up toward the sky. Because they were rockets to me. They were pointed and looked just like rockets.
I would pretend they were taking off. They were rockets to the moon – or farther. I would hold the rocket in my hand and pretend it was soaring through space. It was a whole world in a little square of garden. I would squeeze myself through the fence – there was a hole just big enough to do that. There were birds, and the pond was filled with green water. And to me the smell was exotic, as if in another country, another world.
It was a magical, mystical garden, like a dream. There was no sound except for the birds and the wind in the trees. It was frightening at first, because people said there was a guy there who would eat you up. I felt courageous going there. But nothing ate me up, and I found peace in the garden. There was a big gray house, too, and the shutters used to hit the walls when the wind blew. No one lived in the house. I peeked inside once, and everything was covered with black cloth. It was the only time I dared approach it. And I heard the cry of a little cat coming from underneath the house.
It was the thin cry of a kitten, and, although I love animals, I didn’t dare pick it up because the mother was there with other kittens, and I was afraid she might jump on me. I can close my eyes today and sense the smell, the cry of the cat, the mysterious house. I remember the full vibrations of that place. One day, as I was exploring the garden, I found what looked like an old rusty pipe in the bushes. When I pulled it out, I was overjoyed to find it was the barrel of a gun, in fact a complete rifle except for the wooden stock, which had rotted away.
This was a happy moment – to find and have a gun all my own. I took it home and rubbed it down and cleaned it as well as I could. My mother wasn’t home at the time, and later I took it downstairs to play. It wasn’t long before a police car came by, and the policeman saw me playing with it in the yard. The police immediately took the rifle away from me, and it broke my heart. I locked myself in my room and cried.
A few days later I decided to go back to the garden to find another rifle. I knew in my heart I’d never find one, but I wanted to try.
And it was on this day that a strange thing happened – at that young age of three or four. Before I describe it, I want to make it plain that I know it sounds like a small child’s fantasy, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. That doesn’t make it any less real. It is more than real. I was very young, but my memory of the incident is now and has always been so clear that there is no question that it happened. I didn’t know then exactly what was happening to me. I had to accept it the way it was happening. With a child’s mind, I didn’t ask questions of myself then, the way I do now. But it’s important to remember what happened, because it might just possibly be a clue to the results of the tests I’ve undergone in university laboratories.
In that garden many years ago, it was late afternoon but still light. I had been playing all alone, sometimes dozing and dreaming in the garden during the afternoon. Suddenly there was a very loud, high-pitched ringing in my ears. All other sounds stopped. And it was strange, as if time had suddenly stood still. The trees didn’t move in the wind. Something made me look up at the sky. I remember it well. There was a silvery mass of light. And I even remember the first thought that passed through my head: What happened to the sun?
This was not the sun, and I knew it. The light was too close to me. Then it came down lower, I remember, very close to me. The color was brilliant. I felt as if I had been knocked over backward. There was a sharp pain in my forehead. Then I was knocked out. I lost consciousness completely. I don’t know how long I lay there, but when I woke I rushed home and told my mother. She was angry and worried. Deep down, I knew something important had happened.
I went back to the garden many times after that, hoping to see that brilliant, silvery mass of light again. It never appeared again, however, much as I wanted it to. My mother, of course, dismissed it as a childish fantasy, and I kept my thoughts about it to myself. But today, in the light of all that is happening with these energy forces, I think about it often. As I get farther into my story, I think you will understand why.
My life began against a background of violence, not in my home, where I was always loved, but in the world all around me. Perhaps that is why I pray for peace so much, why I feel we must bring peace to the world or we will all perish. I was born on December 20, 1946, in Tel Aviv. My father and mother had married in Hungary in 1938, on the eve of the terror of World War II. My father and mother had to flee from Hungary separately. My father, Itzhak, left Hungary in November 1938, escaped into Rumania, and sneaked aboard a ship bound for what was then called Palestine. The trip took four months, because the British shot at the ship when it attempted to land in Israel. It went to Greece, then tried again. Again it was stopped and turned away. The third attempt, made in March 1939, finally succeeded, with twenty dead refugees aboard the ship.
My mother, Margaret, had escaped from Hungary to Yugoslavia, where she was finally able to get aboard a ship named Rudichar 11, which brought her to Palestine. When they were reunited, my parents first set up their home in Kerem Haa’teiman, on the border of Jaffa.
My father came from a very religious family. His grandfather, a rabbi in Budapest, brought the family up in a strict Jewish tradition and died at the age of ninety. My mother’s family was not very religious. Although she was born in Berlin, her parents were Viennese. Their surname was Freud, and my grandfather, who was said to be a distant relative of Sigmund Freud, was fairly successful in the furniture business in Budapest. They had a big warehouse with all kinds of furniture and kitchen ware. But my mother’s family was not rich. Neither was my father’s.
My mother and father used to like to go out on a large lake some distance from Budapest in those long, thin racing sculls. It was known as a dangerous lake, and at times it could get quite rough. One time their boat capsized. My mother’s foot was caught in the sliding mechanism of the scull, and she began to drown. My father swam under the boat and just barely saved her life.
I do not know if that is why they fell in love and married, but they did so in 1938. There are pictures of their wedding. It was in one of the biggest synagogues in Budapest, or perhaps all of Hungary. But their happiness would not last long for several reasons.
I know that when they settled in Palestine, which was ruled by the British then, things were hard for them. My father had to look all over for a job. He and a friend, who was a doctor, also a refugee, finally found work selling lollipops from a cart on the beaches. Later, my father worked as a cab driver, making dangerous trips from Tel Aviv to Lod. At that time, my father told me, it was very risky to go out of Tel Aviv, with constant shooting going on by both the Arabs and the British.
My father joined the British Army in World War II. He fought in the Jewish Brigade in Libya with the Eighth Army, under General Montgomery. He was in the tank squad, and at Tobruk his unit was surrounded by Germans for many weeks until they escaped by boat. It was so bad there, he told me, they had to drink their own urine. That was in 1941. He went back to Tobruk to fight again in 1942 and 1943.
When he returned to Palestine there still was no peace. He joined the Haganah, which was like a secret home guard. The Haganah did not engage in terrorism, but there was constant fighting among the British, the Arabs, and the extreme Zionist groups.
My very earliest memory is of a violent incident. Opposite the house where I lived as a baby was the railroad station. Behind the station was the British headquarters, a tall building. There was constant sniping and fighting around us. I don’t know how old I was, but I was still in a pram. My mother put me by a window, and one night a lot of shooting broke out on the streets. Suddenly, bullets came through the windows and right past my pram. I remember glass breaking, as young as I was. My mother rushed in and pulled the pram into the living room. I didn’t have a single scratch, even though there was broken glass all over me.
Later, during the 1948 war and afterward, there were always reminders of the fighting. When I was about five, I used to dig out bullets from pieces of wood and shutters with a pen knife. Some were copper and some were shiny silver, and most of them were all smashed up. But to me they were always rockets to the moon and outer space.
I loved my father and mother very much. But it wasn’t long before I reaised that they were living separate lives. By now Israel was independent, and my father had left the Haganah and joined the regular Israeli Army. He was home only occasionally. And I knew he was seeing other women. In fact, he wanted me to meet one of them. I somehow felt this was bad, just by instinct. He was in love with her, though. And I’ll never forget the day that she came to our house. She whistled up the stairs to my father. I was trying to make noise so that my mother would not hear it, trying to cover it up, because I knew my mother would be hurt.
Another time, my father was on the telephone when I was with him – not in our house, but an outside phone. We didn’t even have a phone; it was a big thing. My father let me hold the phone and talk on it, and it was an exciting moment. When I got on the phone, I reaised that I was talking to a woman my father was seeing. I didn’t know what to say to her, because I really didn’t accept this situation. I felt something very bad in my heart. I knew my parents’ marriage would not be able to work, and I came to accept it.
But no matter what, I loved my father and I was proud of him. He later became a sergeant major in the Tank Corps – he was always in the Tank Corps after Israel became independent. Of course, I was closer to my mother, because I lived with her all the time.
My father would always do nice things for me whenever he did come home. One night he came home and said that he had a surprise for me outside on the balcony. I went out and found a little puppy. I don’t think I have ever been so happy. I called him Tzuki. He was a funny little Arabic mongrel, light brown and white, with a little white heart-shaped spot on his forehead.
Tzuki and I were never apart except when I went to school, which was near my house. Tzuki would watch for me from the balcony every day, and I would look forward to seeing him.
It is hard to tell exactly when I began to notice anything unusual. My mother noticed some things first, before I did. She was working as a seamstress during the day, which was one reason why I had so much freedom for myself, although she arranged for a neighbor to keep an eye on me. Her main recreation was playing cards with friends, which she loved to do. But even when I was in first grade, as young as I was, I used to wait up for her when she came in from playing cards so that I could say good night. And somehow I knew whether she had won or lost, or how much exactly she had won or lost, in pounds and shillings. I don’t know how I knew it, I just knew it. She was really surprised, because I was able to tell nearly every time. She didn’t know quite what to make of it, so she shrugged it off.
And she noticed that I would often say things just before she was going to say them, as if I were reading her mind. She was often startled by this, but neither of us thought about it too much. I was a strange kid, there seemed to be no doubt about it.
I was very young, perhaps about six, when my father brought me my first watch. I was very proud of it. Now, from the very start I didn’t like school much. I didn’t like studying and classes, and I couldn’t wait for recess, which I guess is normal, but I think I had a stronger dose of dislike than normal. Now that I had a watch, I would look at it many times to see when the bell would ring for recess. In some classrooms but not all of them, there were wall clocks. On one particular day I remember, I kept looking at my watch, which told me that the class was over. But the recess bell wasn’t ringing. Then I looked at the clock on the wall, and it showed that we still had half an hour to go. So I sadly pulled out the stem and set my watch back to match the wall clock. Then I suffered through the rest of the class.
But this was only the first time of many that the same thing happened. Time after time, my watch would jump a half an hour or so ahead of the school clock, and I would have to set it back. I finally told my mother about it, and we agreed that the watch was not working right. But it began misbehaving in a very strange way. The minute hand would spin four or five hours ahead, sometimes more. My mother said that there must be something really wrong, because no watch could jump that fast.
Finally, I left the watch home, and my mother checked it every day. Nothing unusual happened. The watch ran in a perfectly normal manner. It stayed that way for weeks. So I decided to wear it back to school. I was hoping to catch the watch moving, something I had never been able to do before. I took it off my wrist in the classroom, put it in front of me, and just looked at it. Soon I forgot about it, but later happened to glance down at it. Then I saw the hands going around faster and faster, as though the watch had gone crazy.
I shouted to the teacher: “Look at this watch!” And I held it up for everybody to see. Then everybody in the class began laughing at me. I felt miserable. I reaised for the first time in my life that I had to be very careful about what I said. People would laugh and make fun of me. As any child would be, I was really embarrassed.
I went home and told my mother how everybody had laughed. She asked me exactly what happened, and I told her. She finally said, “All right, we’ll get you another one.” It was months later when they finally did, and I never wore the old one again. I just thought it must have been a weird watch, and that was all there was to it.
I wasn’t ready for what was going to happen next. I was wearing my new watch, and very proud of it too. At last, I thought, I had a watch that would run properly. And it seemed to. It kept perfectly good time. Then one day when we were all out in the playground, the bell rang to signal us back into the classroom again.
I looked down at my watch. To my amazement, the hands were bent. It was as if they had tried to bend upward, then hit the crystal, which held them back so that they bent sideways inside of it. I said to myself: “My God, I don’t want to show this to anybody!” I didn’t want to be laughed at again. It was the last thing I wanted.
But one thing struck me even then. It always seemed to happen most when other kids were around. In the classroom. On the playground. In front of other people. But here was a practically new watch, and it was ruined. I didn’t show it to the teacher or the other kids in the class, but I took it home with me. My father was home at that time, and I showed it to both my parents.
My father took the watch in his hands and looked at it. And he asked me one question: “Did you open this watch?” I said: “No father, I did not,” because of course I hadn’t. Then my mother told him of the troubles I had had with the other watch. They looked at each other, and neither of them understood what was going on. I never got another watch during my childhood.
In spite of the problems that my parents were having with their marriage, I was basically happy. My parents hadn’t divorced yet, but my father was coming home less and less, and I did feel sad that my mother was working so hard as a seamstress. She worked at home and delivered the work when she finished it. I felt sadness at the way she felt, because I literally could read what she was thinking most of the time. I just seemed to have this very rich, imaginative mind inside myself. I was not really a loner. I had friends at school. But at that time, in the early grades, I didn’t have any friend I was very close to.
I guess I reaised that I was a little bit unusual even back then. My mind seemed to be drifting to other worlds, unworldly thoughts, quite a bit. I don’t know if it was because of that brilliant beam of light in the garden or not. But that had made a tremendous impact on me. It was real, it was vivid in my mind. It was, I know to this day, no childhood fantasy.
I know I believed in God before my mother or anyone told me about Him. I knew that there was a superior power over me, over all of us. Nobody had to tell me. My mother wasn’t very religious, but she too believed in God. I didn’t, of course, attach any religious meaning to the bending and moving hands of the watch. That just puzzled me more than anything else.
Some time after my second watch was ruined, when I no longer had a watch of my own, another strange thing happened. One day at lunch at school, my classmate sitting next to me, who was wearing a watch, suddenly looked down and said: “Hey! My watch just moved an hour ahead.” I was feeling daring that day, so I said to him: “I did that.” He started arguing with me, saying that it was impossible. So I asked him to let me hold the watch, which he did. I didn’t touch the stem or anything like that. I just looked at the watch and said, “Move!” I said it two or three times. And sure enough, the watch jumped ahead some more. Then everybody gathered around, and I did it some more
Now, instead of laughing, they all said it was the greatest trick in the world. And so I began to feel happier. But I soon ran into something I was going to encounter the rest of my life: Everybody thought it was a trick. No one believed me when I said there was no trick to it.
I soon began to notice other things besides the hands of watches moving and bending, which. made me feel more like a freak. One time my mother had made some mushroom soup. There was good white bread with the soup, and I dipped the bread into it and ate. Then I started eating the soup with my spoon. I’m left-handed, so I held the spoon in my left hand and took several sips of the soup. My mother was standing by the kitchen stove. I was lifting a full spoonful up to my mouth, when suddenly the bowl of the spoon bent down and spilled hot soup into my lap. Then the bowl of the spoon itself fell off. I was left there holding on to the handle. I called to my mother: “Look what happened!” She came over and looked at me, then looked at the spoon. And then she started laughing. “Well, it must be a loose spoon or something,” she said. Now I knew that was silly. You don’t just have “loose spoons.”
I laughed, too. But then I started putting two and two together. Something was happening around me that was very strange, and I had no way of explaining it or knowing what to do about it. I only knew that, whatever it was, this kind of thing didn’t seem to happen to anyone else. And it was not comfortable.
Try to imagine such a thing happening to you as a child of eight or nine. You have a spoon full of soup, and it suddenly breaks and spills the soup in your lap. What do you do? The first reaction is to jump back in surprise, then to get angry at the spoon. And if it happens again the reaction is: Wait a minute. What’s going on here? What is happening? And then if it continues, as it did with me, up to thirty or forty times a year, it becomes disconcerting and worrisome, to say the least.
The worst part of it was that there was no place to turn for help. Neither of my parents could believe what was going on, and I couldn’t exactly blame them. I didn’t want to talk to my teachers about it, and my classmates would either laugh or say it was all just a trick. I was too ashamed even to ask anybody about it, because I knew they would laugh at me
Can you imagine having a problem that nobody can help you with? What do you do? The only thing I could do was accept it, try to overlook it, and live with it. My parents were kind, but they simply didn’t know what to say or do.
My mother used to have coffee with friends in a coffee shop. Sometime I would go along with her. I would be eating a piece of cake with them when suddenly several of the spoons on the coffee shop table would start curling up out of shape. I hadn’t even touched them. My mother would be very embarrassed and never know quite what to say.
The waiters would come by, look at the bent pieces, and quickly replace them so that people wouldn’t think the coffee shop was offering bent spoons. She would try to explain to her friends that this happened every once in a while when Uri was around, and they would all think I was a mischievous boy. I certainly had no way of explaining it. All I could do was continue to feel uncomfortable.
My mother gradually began to accept it, but only up to a point. When I told her of the things that would happen at school, she finally said that she didn’t want to hear anything more. It’s fine, she would say, it’s interesting, but I don’t want to have to take you to a doctor.
When my father was home, they did talk about taking me to a psychiatrist. They were hoping I would outgrow this strange thing. Since I knew there was no way to convince them that I wasn’t causing mischief intentionally, I decided that the best thing to do was at least to stop talking about what happened at school. It was all very frustrating.
My mother seemed to accept it more than my father, because she knew how accurate I was in reading her mind, especially when I continued to tell her down to the last shilling how much she won or lost at cards and to anticipate what she was going to say, time after time. My father hadn’t experienced any of this, so he was more inclined to take a harder line. One day he finally said: “Look. Let’s go to a psychiatrist, just to see what he says, Uri.”
And I got angry. I was thinking that my parents weren’t able to get along together, that any father was going to leave with another woman, and here they were talking about taking me to a psychiatrist. I was only about nine then, but I blew up. I told them: “I’m not the one who needs to go to a psychiatrist. Both of you are. You’re not getting along with each other, you’re going to break up, and you both need it more than I do. Why don’t you go to him?”
That seemed to hold them off, and, though I didn’t want to hurt them at all, because I loved them, I felt sure that a doctor couldn’t do me any good. I wanted so much to forget all this. I didn’t feel different from other children. I wanted to mingle with them and do what they did. I didn’t have red eyes or mystic colors emanating from me. Or auras around me. I wasn’t a bookworm. I hated to study. I played basketball and soccer. I wasn’t a bad kid. I was free and very open. I just had this one big problem: Crazy things happened when I was around, especially among other children. There wasn’t any real antagonism because of this, from the kids or anyone else. I was just angry within myself, because there wasn’t anywhere to turn, there was no one to confide in, because what was happening was something that no one, not even my mother, could understand.
Although I was very close to my mother, I was never a mama’s boy. I was very independent, and she never tried to dominate me. Although I didn’t see my father very much, we were close and understood each other most of the time that we were together. He was a handsome man, and women were always running after him. My mother understood this and came to accept it. Of course, she was hurt, and it was painful for her. But it was a fact of life.
I had my own dreams and hopes. From my earliest days, I always wanted to be a movie star, just the way a friend of mine wanted to be a pilot. And my mind continued to wander to other lands, far away. I always thought of exploring where nobody had ever been before. The unknown has always been exciting to me. I think every kid has this somewhere inside him – to go places that are dangerous, where anything can happen to you. I used to try to invent certain kinds of clothes you could wear that would protect you from any harm in adventurous situations. I even drew sketches and diagrams of my ideas.
Two important things happened to me in those early days that had nothing to do with watches, silverware, mind-reading, or anything strange. One time I asked a friend of mine to hold Tzuki for a moment while I went across the street. Tzuki wouldn’t hold still for this and ran across after me – straight into the path of a car. It ran over him and killed him instantly. I saw it happen right in front of me. It was awful. Both my mother and I cried, that day and the next. Only then did I learn how much I loved animals. My father brought me another dog a few weeks later, and I named it Tzuki again. Maybe it was because I was somewhat different from the other children that I turned to my dog for companionship. Whatever it was, the sadness of that day stays with me.
I was in third or fourth grade when I had the other experience. It was one of the worst incidents in my life, and I feel terrible even as I write about it now. I’ll never understand why I did it. It was one of those foolish, immature things that happen when you are a child. One day in school the teacher asked the class to bring in their Torahs from home – those scrolls that contain the holy Jewish words. I didn’t have a Torah to bring, so I came in empty-handed. When I saw all those beautiful Torahs, I felt very jealous. Everybody had a Torah but me.
When recess came my classmates put their Torahs under their desks and left the classroom. I then went back and stole one. It was somebody’s Torah, I don’t remember whose, a beautiful white one. I took it home. Then they found out.
That afternoon the teacher came to my house. When I saw her coming I knew they knew I had stolen the Torah. I was in a state of terror. I didn’t know what to do. In a panic, I tore up the Torah and threw it in the wastebasket. My father was home that day, and the teacher told him about it. I’ll never forget the way my father looked when she told him. He looked at me, and he knew I had stolen it. My father was never mean and never vicious, but he whipped me that day. He took me into the bathroom and really whipped me. And I reaised I had committed two sins. I had not only stolen the Torah, but I had also torn it up.
There was a girl named Naomi in my class whom I secretly loved. After that incident, she didn’t want to speak to me. I learned a lesson that day, and while it certainly wasn’t the last I was to learn, it’s one I’ll never forget.
I was almost an outcast after that, which made it easier for me when my mother told me I would be going to school at a kibbutz, one of those collective settlements in Israel where everybody works and lives together. They weren’t sending me there because of the Torah, but because the divorce was now going to come about, and it would be better for my mother to go about her work without having the responsibility of taking care of me full time.
I did not feel sad when they told me about the divorce. I knew the decision was better for my mother somehow. And I knew it was better for my father. I didn’t cry or fight against the divorce. With my father leaving and my mother working hard every day as a seamstress, I would be able to keep well and have good food at the kibbutz. I would not be lonely and would be well taken care of. I knew they had made the right decision, although I felt a sadness in my heart at being away from my mother and felt terrible about leaving my dog behind.
But there was the excitement of going to a new place, a new world. I had heard many good stories about what a kibbutz was like, that everybody’s a friend there, that you’re adopted by a family, that you can work, maybe drive a tractor, mink the cows, that kind of thing.
It would be a taste of a new life, and I was ready for it.
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