MAYBE THESE STRANGE powers, my discomfort when people didn’t believe me, caused me to go off by myself at times to seek adventure where no one knew me, to find out about the world around me.
One time a Hungarian pianist who was a friend of my parents bought an MG and wanted to try it out on the mountain roads. He took me along, and when we made a stop I decided to explore the mountains on foot. Before long I found myself on the ground staring at a rifle aimed at my forehead. I had stumbled onto a secret camp where a man named Grivas was directing EOKA guerrilla operations. There were many legends in Cyprus about Grivas and a big reward on his head, and the British were trying to track him down.
I was interrogated by a guard, then taken to see Grivas himself. He noticed that I spoke Athenian Greek, not the dialect of the Cyprus Greeks. He asked who I was.
I told him I was an Israeli.
“I have friends in Israel,” he said. “You know what happened in Israel. You know how Israel got independent of the British.” Then he looked at me fiercely and said: “Do you think we are right?”
I said that, as a matter of fact, Israel did the same thing about the British. I told him about my father, how he had fought with the Haganah.
He knew about the Haganah. We talked more, then he suddenly said goodbye In. A huge sensation of relief came over me. I ran downhill as fast as I could and found my friend with the MG. He was worried to death. “Where have you been?” he asked. I said, “You’re not going to believe who I met.”
I told him, and he didn’t believe me. He said I was just making up the story. I couldn’t resent this, because the story did sound unlikely. But I still wonder why I of all people stumbled into the EOKA hideout, and now and then I think of how close I came to being killed.
Like any typical boy, I used to go out of my way to find adventure. Cyprus is an island, and the sea always fascinated me. The sea around Cyprus is beautiful. I fell in love with it. It’s so clear, you can drop a coin in water 8 meters deep and see it on the bottom. I learned about snorkeling from a friend at school and became a fanatic. With the water around Cyprus so crystal clear, you could see all the beautiful patterns of the sea animals and plants, all of it an exciting new world.
I used to pack my things and take Joker to the bus station on a Saturday or Sunday. The buses were old and filled with pigs and chickens-as well as people. They went to Kyrenia, the port city on the other side of the mountains. Outside of Kyrenia were beautiful beaches of pure white sand, practically deserted. I would change to one of the buses that went out to the villages, and when I saw a road that led to a beach I would ask the driver to let me and Joker off. I’d have a sandwich on the beach, play with Joker, and then dive into the water and snorkel for hours, until my back was black from the sun, while my stomach stayed white. People would laugh when they saw me, the contrast was so striking.
One day on the beach I met an Arab chap who wanted to sell me his aqualung equipment, with a tank big enough to last forty-five minutes. I scraped together enough money to buy it only because he was letting it go very cheaply. There was a little shop in Kyrenia where I could refill the tank, and I continued going out to the beaches alone with Joker. It’s not the smartest thing in the world to skin-dive when you’re alone, but I didn’t think much about that. All I thought of was the adventure of diving in that crystal clear water and feeling that wonderful silence and beauty of another world. I would find places where the steep cliffs met the edge of the ocean. Every time I saw the underwater scenery, I wanted to go deeper. I always had a dream that I might find a sunken ship, or even diamonds and jewels. Of course, fish and shells were all I ever found, but I loved looking. I knew there were hazards, though, and I watched the time carefully. I didn’t surface fast, and when the sea was rough I wouldn’t go in. Some of the best moments of my life were spent diving.
Cyprus was also a land of wonderful contrasts. There was the sea around us and the tall mountains, like Mount Olympus and Mount Trodos, where the snow fell and one could even go skiing. I never did rent skis and boots, but I liked to go into the mountains when it was snowing, just to explore and see what it was like. All this was squeezed in when the struggles of the Turks and the Greeks, as well as the British, permitted. You took what moments of pleasure you could between the curfews and sirens and shooting.
When I was nearly sixteen I moved into a period full of the little things that happen to every teenager. I had no idea that the mysterious powers and forces were to become such an enormous factor in my life or that they might turn out to be so important to science. All the crazy things that teenagers did were fun for me. I enjoyed them. I especially enjoyed my first taste of American life. There was an American Club in Cyprus, part of a military base, and one of my friends invited me to go there. You can’t imagine what an impression it made on me. The PX store was like a dream come true. It looked to me as if Americans had everything they wanted: all kinds of shoes and clothing on display, every kind of pen and pencil, stationery supplies, a huge swimming pool, 7-Up, hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn – everything that is taken for granted in America.
It was my first introduction to American abundance, and it blew my mind. I liked the kind of shirts the kids were wearing and the all-star basketball shoes. The basketballs were brand-new Wilsons, and the baseball gloves were real leather. There were American cars all over the place. Everything seemed practically free. The ice cream and the hot dogs cost only pennies, and you could get a new basketball to shoot any time you wanted one. Or you could jump into the swimming pool any time of the day. There were jukeboxes and dancing, and any song you wanted to play, front Ray Charles to Chubby Checker.
It was a fairyland. Everything from America seemed top class to me. I asked my friends to get some American shirts and blue jeans, since I couldn’t buy directly from the PX. They taught me baseball and let me play on the team. And since I was left-handed they had to order a special baseball glove for me from America. It was a great day when that glove finally arrived. I used to ask myself: If this is going on here, what is going on in America?
My friends invited me to the American Club often, even though I couldn’t join it, and I went every chance I could. I joined a baseball team called the Barons and bicycled twice a week to a field at an English school, where we practiced. One of the coaches had a daughter, Patty, who used to come and watch us. She was blonde, not too tall, slim, and very striking and attractive. She used to look at me, and I looked back at her. When I was up at bat, I always wanted to hit a home run just for her. When I hit a good one or made a good catch, I’d look over in her direction and feel very proud if she was looking. But being a teenager I was always too shy to speak to her. Then one day she came up to me at the field. She told me she liked the way I played ball and said: “What are you doing tonight? Would you like to come to a movie at the American Club?” I told her that I sure would, and I was the happiest guy you could find.
I bicycled home and back to the American Club as fast as I could and met her there. She was wearing shorts, and so was I – nobody dressed up there. I can’t remember what the film was, something with Alan Ladd in it. When we got to the post movie “heater, all the seats were filled, so we had to sit close together on one of the window sills. As the movie got exciting she put her hand on my leg. I put my arm around her, and I suddenly reaised that I was in love. It was a wonderful feeling.
I saw her a lot. She lived quite a way out of Nicosia, and her father used to drop her off at the American Club. She was not only good-looking. She swam beautifully and could dance like a dream. We would dance all the time to the juke box, and our favorite song was Sealed with a Kiss. We used to kiss and neck, too, very innocently. We had hamburgers and hot dogs together and went bowling at the club. To me it was romantic and exciting. We saw each other for over a year, two or three times a week or whenever we could get free to be together. Being in love was something new.
But then a complication arose. It wasn’t the first time I had conflicting feelings, but I wasn’t sure how to handle it this time. Across the street from our hotel was a girl named Helena. She was Greek, but she spoke good English, because her family lived in America. She was just the opposite of Patty. She was dark and tanned, but she was lovely and intelligent too.
I would see Helena in her garden at times, or going into her house, but I had never met her and didn’t quite know how to go about getting acquainted. One day she was in her garden, and I was playing with Joker outside the hotel, throwing a ball for him to chase. When I saw Helena, I purposely made a bad throw that bounced over the low wall and into her garden. I jumped the wall and apologized to her for letting the ball go there. I liked her immediately.
She was interesting to talk to, very spiritual, mystical, and quiet. I enjoyed seeing her. Being with her was less active and more peaceful than being with Patty. I had a little record player, and we listened to records. We used to read articles together. We talked about the troubles on Cyprus and other things happening in the world. She could not go to the American Club, but she told me of her visits to America, of all the big cars there, the buildings, the cities. America was like a mythical land to both of us. There were little things about it she liked – for instance, Jergens Lotion, of all things. I bought some at the PX for my mother, and Helena used it on special occasions.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in love with both Helena and Patty at the same time. It was confusing. Although Patty and I kissed and necked a little, it never went farther than that. I didn’t try. With Helena I finally got up the nerve to try to explore further, but she was very successful at stopping me.
Perhaps it was good that I felt strongly about Helena, because after about a year or so Patty had to return to America, and that’s the last I heard from her. So my dilemma ended of its own accord.
At school, Mrs. Agrotis continued to be interested in the energy forces. She liked to try experiments in telex any. She put certain numbers in envelopes for me to guess. She was the only one I felt I could confide in about the watches, the keys, and the telepathy in any detail, because she was deeply interested and wouldn’t laugh at me. She tested me many times on guessing numbers, and I could get them right nearly every time. She asked me if I had any idea where this power came from, and I told her no, I had just been able to do things like this ever since my early school days.
None of us at the school turned into angels as we grew older. We were always up to mischief, some of it pretty childish. We were lucky we didn’t get caught at some of the things we did. I have a whole different view of it now. Not far from the school was a huge field full of abandoned military equipment: broken down army trucks, machinery, old airplane fuselages, broken tanks, and scrap metal. It was surrounded by a wire fence and guarded by men and dogs. We used to try to figure out ways of getting inside the fence and bringing souvenirs back to school.
Finally, a few of us got hold of a pair of wire cutters and started out on the big adventure. We made sure there were no guards or dogs around and found a place where we could cut an opening in the fence and crawl through it. We patched it back up so nobody would notice where we had cut through. We roamed all over the place, but whenever we saw a guard or dog we would scramble through the hole in the fence and push it back in place.
We were all trying to show each other that we were big men now, no longer fooling around with the kid stuff. One dare led to another. A gang of us discovered an old railroad wrecking crane on some abandoned tracks near one of the quarries close to the cave area. Part of the crane was closed in, like a boxcar, and we felt sure that there was some kind of treasure inside. When we finally forced the door open, we found it filled with old, dusty cases of beer.
We didn’t know how it got there or whether it was spoiled or not, but we each drank a few bottles and tried to get drunk. None of us really succeeded. Later, we took the beer inside the caves, brought some packs of cigarettes, and continued proving to each other that we were really big men, very worldly about everything. We used to bet on who could drink the most beer and who could smoke the most cigarettes. I got a little high, but I couldn’t get drunk, perhaps because the beer was so spoiled that none of the alcohol was left in it. Actually I hated the beer and the cigarettes. I don’t use either of them at all now, and never really did. I tried smoking a pipe later, but that never caught on, either.
Our hotel was quite near the Israeli consulate in Nicosia. Although business was bad because of the fighting and the curfews, we sometimes had Israeli guests. One day a man arrived from Israel who told us he’d learned the name of our hotel from someone back home. He planned to stay quite a while, which was good news’ because my mother was having a hard time keeping the hotel going. He left after a month and a half but said he would send us more guests from Israel. And he did, several of them. They’d stay a week or two and then leave.
One day a tall man by the name of Joav Shacham are rived from Israel. A powerful, well-built man, he seemed to be in his late twenties. He said his work had something to do with archaeology or grain-buying – I couldn’t get it straight. I became friendly with him. He knew judo and offered to teach me something about it, and I learned a lot.
I used to collect stamps, and I noticed that his letters were coming in from all over, from many places in the Arabic countries, from South America – everywhere. They had beautiful stamps on them, and I asked Joav for the canceled stamps. He told me no, he couldn’t do that, but he would get me others. So instead of giving me the stamps from his letters, he brought me a beautiful album filled with all kinds of interesting stamps. I really appreciated this, but my curiosity was aroused. Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to let me have the stamps he already had? I guess all the spy movies I had seen made me suspicious.
On top of that, I began to get definite impressions from his mind as he was teaching me judo. I could see all kinds of scenes on that screen in my mind. Many times I would see Joav shooting at targets with a pistol or working with documents and papers. Many things seemed to pass through his mind that could not have been normal for either an archaeologist or a grain dealer. I was almost certain that these impressions were not caused by all the spy movies I had seen or by my constant wish for great adventures.
My room in the villa that my mother and I had made into a hotel was a large storage area that was part of the attic. Originally there were no stairs to it, so we had some ladder-type stairs built and fixed it up for me to live in. That way, I wasn’t using up space that could be rented to guests. A little door connected my room to the part of the attic that was directly over Joav’s room. At times I would crawl through to look for an owl that I thought was nesting in the attic and making strange noises.
One day while Joav was with us I thought I heard the owl, so I crawled into the attic to check it out with a flashlight. I didn’t find any owl, but I heard voices coming from Joav’s room. One of the electric wires in the attic passed through a hole in the floor to the room below. If you moved the wires just a little, you could look down into the room. I moved it and peeked through the slit. I could see Joav and a guest who had just recently checked into the hotel, an Egyptian in his fifties, perhaps, who lived in Israel.
They had all kinds of documents spread around, along with books, cameras, lights, and flashbulbs. Some of the papers were in Arabic, which was easy to-recognize even through the peep hole. I couldn’t hear everything they said, but it included talk about the Egyptian Army, radio messages, agricultural equipment, Khartoum, and other things that strengthened my suspicion that they were spies for Israel. I was frightened and excited. I felt half-guilty to be in possession of such a big secret. I felt I couldn’t tell it to anybody, not even my mother.
But the discovery was bursting inside me. I didn’t know what to do. I liked Joav and wanted to protect him at any cost. I finally decided to level with him. When we were alone in the garden one day, I looked straight at him and said: “You’re an Israeli spy, aren’t you?” Then I mentioned some of the things I had overheard.
I could see how shook up he was. He seemed to freeze for a moment, then said: “How do you know?”
I told him how I had overheard his conversations and had looked down into his room. Then he said, “Look, what I am doing is for the good of Israel. It is very dangerous for you to talk about it. I can get caught, and you can get hurt. You know a lot, but I can’t tell you any more. You’ll just have to believe that I’m doing the right thing.”
I told him I would keep his secret, and for the first time in a long while, maybe because I shared his secret, I wanted to share the secret of the powers with someone I didn’t know too well. I told him that I had been able to pick up a lot of what he had been thinking even before I overheard his conversations from the attic. He naturally found this hard to swallow. So I asked him to think of a number. He did, and I guessed it. I had him think of others, four in all. Each time my answer was right. Then I asked him to concentrate on his watch with me so I could make the hands move ahead. They did so, immediately. He was shocked.
He said, “Uri, how did you do this trick?”
I told him it was not a trick, and I could repeat it almost any time.
He thought for a moment and said: “Uri, let’s take a walk somewhere together. I want to talk to you.”
On the walk, I told him that I would like to work for the Israeli Government, too. He told me that I was too young, that I still had to go to school, and then into the Israeli Army when I reached eighteen. But he ended up by saying: “You could help me.”
This was wonderful. It was part of my dreams and fantasies to work as a spy – probably the next best thing to being a movie star. I was young. I was enthusiastic.
I was just crossing the bridge into being a man. Joav told me that he would be leaving soon and that there would be many letters with Arabic stamps coming to him at a post office box. When they came in, I was to take them on my bicycle to the Israeli consulate and give them personally to a man he named there.
All I lacked was a code name. I would pick up the letters, put them in a plain envelope, seal it, and deliver them by bicycle to the consulate. It was an exciting business for me then. I had to work on my own and not tell another soul about it. The intrigue added to the excitement.
Every once in a while I used to wear a little blue and yellow insignia on my jacket that my father had won for meritorius service in the army. Nobody in Cyprus knew what it was; I just wore it as a souvenir because it reminded me of my father, and I missed him. We wrote back and forth quite a bit, and twice I visited him in Israel during the years in Cyprus. We were close, and we have always stayed that way. He came to visit me in Cyprus once and stayed at the hotel for a little over a week. My mother and father were on fairly good terms by then.
I happened to be wearing the little insignia one time when I delivered the secret mail to the consulate. I brought the envelope in, and the man I delivered the mail to asked: “What’s that you’re wearing?”
I said, “Oh, that’s a decoration my father won in the Israeli Army. He’s a sergeant in the Tank Corps.”
He was interested. He wanted to know my father’s name, exactly what unit he was in, and that kind of thing. I guess in his business they had to check everything out right down the line. When my father returned from Cyprus to Israel, he wrote me that a strange thing had happened. His house had been turned upside down, all the drawers pulled out, everything a mess. But nothing was stolen. My guess was that the Israeli Secret Service was checking him out because of the work I was doing – but I couldn’t tell him anything about it.
I saw Joav several times off and on as I continued the work as a courier. I grew to like him very much. He told me he was going to marry a girl named Tammi, and once she came over with him and I met her. Me took a real interest in my future and offered to help me in every way he could. When I finished my tour in the army, he said, I was to tell him, and if I wanted to I could resume working in the Secret Service.
I was eating like a horse in those days and putting on a lot of weight. In fact, I was getting almost chubby, even though I played a lot of basketball, which was one of my favorite sports. I used to practice on some of the courts in Nicosia, which had been put up on the bottom of the broad moats that had once surrounded the city. Joker and I would go down there, and I practiced for hours at a time. I had a pretty good hook shot. It intrigued me that, when the ball rolled anywhere on the rim, it would inevitably drop in if I concentrated on it; it would also seem to vary slightly in its course if I concentrated. I dismissed this then as my own imagination. Now I wonder if it was just imagination.
Along with the rest of my schoolmates, I continued to try to prove my manhood in many ways. I got enough money together to buy a motor bike, which is a regular bicycle with a motor added to the back wheel. This took the agony out of climbing those steep hills on the way to school from Nicosia. Later I was able to get a motor scooter, and Joker learned to ride between my legs on it.
It became apparent as I was growing up that I liked to take action on impulse, quickly and decisively. When-ever a problem came up, I had a tendency to bulldoze through all the obstacles. For instance, before my stepfather died, he had rented a piano to a big hotel in the Turkish section of Nicosia. As the months went by it became obvious that the hotel was no longer going to pay the rent on it; we never received any money. When I talked to my mother about it, she said we might as well forget the piano, because it’s on the other side of the barricades and barbed wire, there’s shooting going on there all the time, and the whole Turkish quarter is guarded by United Nations troops. No trucker from the Greek section could go in there without being shot, she added, so it was impossible to retrieve. I told her: “Now look, Mother. Just leave it to me.”
I found the rental documents for the piano and went to the Greek police station that was near the Turkish quarter. The police didn’t have anything to suggest, so I went to United Nations headquarters, which was nearby.
I told an officer on duty that we owned a piano in a hotel in the Turkish sector and that I wanted to take a convoy in to bring the piano out. Can you imagine anything more nervy? I was surprised at myself. I showed him the papers, but he said there was absolutely no way, that I would have to talk to higher authorities. Even then he didn’t believe anything could be done about it.
I said, “What do you mean, higher authorities?”
He said he meant the colonel in charge, but he was all tied up. The officer said he himself wouldn’t be able to arrange anything like this, and he doubted the colonel could arrange it. I thanked him and went up to the second floor. There was a whole row of doors marked Major this, General this, Colonel this. I picked one of the colonels’ doors, knocked, and walked in. I decided I would have to take the offensive, so I told the colonel about the piano and said: “What is the United Nations for? This is our piano, it’s worth about one hundred pounds. We rented it to the hotel in good faith, and they have not paid us for months. We need the money or we need the piano. Can’t you help us get it back?” I was surprised at my own determination.
The colonel was so knocked over that he laughed. He seemed to like me. He asked how old I was, and I told him that I was almost seventeen. I explained that my stepfather had died and that we needed the money. So he finally said, “Let’s see what we can do. Do you have a phone?”
I gave him our number, and he said he would call back. He called about three days later. “There are four land rovers going into the Turkish section,” he said. “Can the piano fit in a land rover?” I told him I was sure it could.
I’ll never forget that day. They let me ride with the convoy, with the papers for the piano. There were four land rovers, an armored car, and a semitank. We drove slowly into the Turkish side of Nicosia, through the barricades, past mines, past gates and barbed wire. There were broken bottles everywhere, and sand bags on window sills with guns pointing out between them.
We got to the hotel, and I went to see the manager. I showed him the papers and told him we had received no rent for the piano for many months. Surprised at my own firmness, I told him I wanted both the money and the piano. He said, “Well, I can’t give you the money. I just don’t have it.”
I said, “Okay. We’ll waive the money, but I’m taking the piano.”
He didn’t know quite what to say. We were standing at the entrance of the hotel, and he saw the convoy with its armored car and semitank along with the land rovers, and he saw all the U.N. officers standing around with their blue berets. He finally said okay, so we hauled the piano out and brought it back to the hotel. We were able to sell it very shortly after that.
I became very conscious of my approaching manhood when Eva and her sister Ingrid checked into the hotel. They were dancers with a large company that somehow had the courage to brave the fighting and curfews of Cyprus to perform. Eva was really beautiful. She was Austrian or German, if I remember right. She had short black hair cut in a French style, and she had a wonderful perfumed smell around her.
One late afternoon when my mother was away, Eva seemed to be well on the way toward getting drunk. I was watching television, and she sat down and joined me. She drank beer after beer. It was a very hot day. We watched TV for a while, and then she said it was so hot she was going to her room to change into her bathing suit. She got up and went toward her room, weaving a little as she walked.
After a few moments I heard her call for me through her closed door. I got up, knocked on her door, and went in. She was standing there in a sort of mini bathing suit. She said she was having trouble getting the bra part closed and asked me to help her with it. I was embarrassed and my heart was pounding. I walked over to her and took hold of the two ends of the bra to try to figure out how to hook them together. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to do it.
Suddenly she turned around and ripped the bra off her shoulders. She threw her arms around me and pulled me to her. Then she fell back on the bed, pulling me down with her. My heart really started beating now. I tried to act very experienced and worldly, but all I knew about this was what I’d learned from pictures and the movies.
I was awkward. When we were through she said she was sorry she did this, and all I could think of to say was: “Don’t tell my mother about it.” I had become a man, but my emotions were those of an adolescent.
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“The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues.”
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“Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind”
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