Uri Geller Bends Dirt Pile, Finds Ottoman-era Soap Factory in Israel

While building the Uri Geller museum in Jaffa, the psychic says he intuited that there was something beneath a suspect pile of refuse

While visiting the site of the future Uri Geller Museum in Jaffa, the self-proclaimed Israeli psychic who famously claims to bend cutlery with his mind noticed a pile of rubble and garbage that turned out to contain the remnants of a 19th century soap factory dating to the Ottoman era.

“I felt psychically that there was something under the dirt, in the ground,” Geller told Haaretz. “I got the Israel Antiquities Authority’s permission to get rid of the rubble and stones and the dust, and lo and behold, we discovered an ancient soap factory.”

It isn’t the first soap plant to be found in the Old City of Jaffa, it’s the second, but the other one definitely doesn’t come with the biggest spoon in the world, so there’s that.

Geller returned to Israel after 48 years abroad and moved to the Jaffa, a seaside town whose occupation goes back to the dawn of history: in 2016 archaeologists found the signs of a previously unknown Canaanite revolt against Egyptian overlords 3,100 years ago.

Back in real time, a year ago a realtor showed Geller a nearby edifice from the time of the Ottomans (the Turkish empire spanning the 14th to early 20th century). The building featured sturdy stonework arches and foundations that could go back a thousand years.

“I said wow,” Geller told Haaretz. “I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.” And he bought the building to house his museum.

Being spacious but antediluvian, the building needs work done before the museum can go up. Such as having electricity put in. That is the context of Geller’s eureka moment with the debris, which happened a few weeks ago, he says.

“As the work proceeded, I noticed a pile of refuse on one side. I intuited that there was something hidden there,” Geller says.

Because this whole story involves renovation of an old Ottoman structure in an ancient city, the IAA had been supervising the project from its get-go, says spokeswoman Yoli Schwartz.

“The site was well preserved and included troughs for mixing raw materials for the soap, a large cauldron, a hearth, water cisterns and underground vaults that were used for storage,” says Dr. Yoav Arbel, a Jaffa expert with the IAA. The entire manufacturing process could be discerned from the finds. In fact some mom & pop operations still make soap much the same way today, he added.

As for the Uri Geller museum, he’s building it himself to showcase treasures he’s been collecting for 50 years, including paintings by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol; and artifacts from Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. “I lived in New York for 10 years and was surrounded by these people,” he told Haaretz.

Among the museum’s unique offerings will be his Cadillac, which the Israel Museum in Jerusalem exhibited for a year, Geller says. It isn’t that he bent its fender with his mind, it’s that the car has 2,000 spoons on its body, which belonged to famous people from the emperor Napoleon to John F. Kennedy to Golda Meir and Yasser Arafat, Geller says, “most of which I bent with my mind, and others which I obtained at auction.”

Asked when the museum will open, Geller thinks probably in about a year.

“I have a lot to fix up – the lighting, air conditioning, the floors,” he says. “Also we’re building the biggest spoon in the world, 18 meters long, weighing 8 tons, which will be in the museum courtyard.”

The giant spoon will attract tourists by the hundreds of thousands, Geller predicts: “Everybody will want to have their photo next to an 18-meter spoon. We will take a picture of the spoon from space. I have friends in NASA and among the cosmonauts.”

Maybe he’s onto something. In 2017 about 3.6 million tourists visited Israel. This year is breaking records too. They could probably use a new attraction.

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