THE AFTEREFFECTS Of my experience with Eva were naturally strong. I couldn’t help thinking how nice it would be if Helena and I could do that. I loved Helena, and it would be wonderful for both of us. But Helena remained firm, and I was left with a feeling of wanting to explore more in this exciting new territory. I felt like the inventor of something, as if no one had ever made love before. I couldn’t have been more proud if I had engineered the whole thing myself, and I couldn’t stop telling the guys at school about it. Ardash was all excited. He had never had the experience, and he was determined now to do so.
That’s why Lola came up. Everybody knew Lola. She was Greek, with gorgeous blonde hair, in her mid-thirties, and she drove around in a red German Taunnus car. She was a prostitute, but she had class, according to the stories. We had heard that she was licensed, checked by a doctor, and that sort of thing. I don’t know if Lola had ever had customers arrive at her establishment on bicycles before, but we pedaled to her house determined to be the most worldly and sophisticated teenagers in Nicosia. This seemed a very necessary follow-up on my initiation into the big mystery of life.
After we parked our bicycles, I began to feel nervous. We rang the bell and were met by an old lady in black, the costume widows wear in Cyprus. When she asked us what we wanted, we got the nerve up to say we wanted to see Lola. That didn’t bother her. She led us upstairs to a little room with four bright-colored chairs and a little table with flowers on it. A certificate hanging on the wall reminded me of a doctor’s waiting room. The old woman asked us if we wanted some Turkish coffee. We said yes, and she brought some immediately. I was so scared now I could hardly keep the cup from shaking. I kept saying to myself: “What am I doing here? What the hell am I doing here?”
I couldn’t tell how Ardash felt. He didn’t show any emotion. In about ten minutes an older man cane out of another room. He walked right by us and never looked at us, never looked left or right. Now my heart was racing so fast I couldn’t count the beats. I said to Ardash, “You go first.” He answered, “No, you go first.” And I finally said, “Please go first, Ardash.” All my worldliness seemed to have left me.
Finally the old lady led Ardash out of the room we were in and I waited another ten minutes. I felt like getting up and running away. At last Ardash came out, and he was beaming. He said everything was great, fine. And I finally got up the nerve to go in.
Lola was very blonde and beautiful in her white robe. My knees began to stop shaking, and for the second time within a few weeks I learned about life.
The experience cost only ten shillings, but I felt guilty about it. With the war intensifying very fast, money was hard to come by. Every hotel was losing money as the fighting went on, and ours was no exception. My graduation would be coming along in several months, and my mother and I had begun to think about returning to Israel. I would have to enter the Israeli Army when I reached eighteen, and there was no way my mother could run the hotel without my help. Very few entertainment people were arriving. Even the number of Israeli visitors had started to diminish. My mother had many friends back in Israel who would help her get work there, where she knew the language well and would be on familiar ground. The decision was made that after my graduation we would return. My mother made a visit to Tel Aviv, and with the help of friends who lent her some money bought a little apartment so that we would have a place to go when we moved back.
Getting ready to close things down was complicated. The furniture in the hotel was rather old and worn, but we arranged to sell it for a small sum of money. Whatever was left, we packed up and got ready to go. I said goodbye to Father Massimino, Father Camillo, and Brother Bernard, along with all my other friends at school. They gave me something called a General Certificate of Education. All our heavy goods, including my motor scooter, were shipped to the port city of Limassol, and we prepared to go by car with just our suitcases. A girl named Rose, who was living with us and was devoted to my mother, went ahead in another car with Joker.
The complications came thick and fast. Although we had checked the big baggage on the ship, the customs people for some reason took so long to examine our personal baggage that the ship actually shoved off without us but with Joker and Rose aboard. My mother began crying. I tried to comfort her, telling her that Rose would take care of everything, including Joker, and that we could phone my father who was going to meet us with a truck to take our luggage from the port of Haifa to Tel Aviv. I said, “Come on, Mother, let’s laugh about it. Let’s go back to Nicosia and get the first plane, then we’ll drive back to Haifa and arrange to pick up the baggage.”
But there was no plane going to Tel Aviv for two days. The new owner let us camp out in the empty hotel until we could finally take off for Israel.
Here the complications continued. When we finally arrived at the docks in Haifa and met my father, we discovered that they had not let Rose take Joker or any of the baggage from the ship. We found the baggage, but there was no sign of Joker. No one seemed to know where he was. They wouldn’t allow us on the ship.
I was in a panic. Joker was nowhere on the docks, there was no sign of him anywhere, no one knew anything. I slipped onto the ship, which was practically deserted. I finally found an officer and said to him: “Listen, my dog was left on the ship. Where would you keep him?” He said to try the upper deck, where there were cages for animals. Joker wasn’t there, and another sailor said to try the stern. There was no sign of him there either. On the way back to find the officer, I passed a small metal door, one of many, and suddenly felt Joker would be inside. There was no reason to believe this, but I was absolutely sure. I tried to open the bulkhead door, a thick metal door, but it was locked. I pounded on it and called “Joker! Joker!” But there was no answer, no sound, no bark. I hit the door again and called, “Joker, don’t worry. I’m here. I’ll get the door open.” But there was still no sound behind the door, none at all.
I found the officer again and said: “Please come and open the door. I know my dog is in there.” He said the door led down to the engine room, and the dog couldn’t be there. He finally opened it for me. I went down some steps, and there was Joker, smeared with black oil and tied up with a chain. He gave me a look that seemed to say, “Look what they did to me!” I felt so sad for him. I grabbed him in my arms, kissed him, and hugged him. I was furious, but there was nothing to be done about it. At least I had found him.
Our new apartment was on the ground floor, opposite a famous cemetery in Tel Aviv where many well-known Israelis are buried – foreign ministers, composers, poets, war heroes. The apartment was very small and cramped after the hotel in Cyprus, but it was the best we could do. My mother went back to sewing, this time making beautiful neckties for some of the shops in Tel Aviv. I got ready to go through the army physical and tests and to wait for induction. It was kind of dreamlike, returning to Israel, like going back to the past.
It was a good thing I had brought my scooter, because I got a job as a messenger for an architects’ copy machine service while I was waiting. I was able to help my mother financially while I kept busy driving the scooter all over the city. I got 350 pounds a month and gave most of it to my mother. I ended up doing routine work inside the architect’s office, which I found through Landau, who had served under my father and who now worked there. Landau was in his early twenties, and we became friends.
He played on a basketball team in his spare time. I told him how I used to concentrate on the ball so that it would often go into the basket. He didn’t understand at all what I meant, so to demonstrate I asked him to concentrate on one of the several architectural plans he had worked on that day. He did, and I drew it for him almost exactly as it was. He was astonished but was convinced it was a trick.
Landau asked me to try out for his basketball team, and I joined it. In practice and warmups the concentration worked very well, so well that people talked about my “golden left hand.” In the fast action of the games it didn’t work as well, but my hook shot was very effective, with or without the chance to concentrate on it.
After the army checkups, X-rays, blood tests, and all that, I found I had about four months to kill. I was offered a job as a desk clerk in a vacation hotel on the Red Sea, which I took for a while. There were hippies and lots of girls at the resort. It was a wild, swinging time.
As the time for my induction drew near, my father asked if I wanted him to help me get into any type of service. I asked him not to, because I wanted to work it out for myself. I tried to make my mind up between trying to be a frogman, a pilot, or a paratrooper. I knew that I eventually wanted to get into the Secret Service because I liked Joav so much. I hadn’t heard from him in a long time. I wondered where he was.
It was a new feeling, getting ready to go into the army, but a good feeling. There was an excitement about it, an anticipation of what was going to happen next, a sense of challenge. On the day of induction I went by bus with a crowd of eighteen-year-olds to Jaffa, where we would be processed. It was a varied mixture of recruits. There were Israeli boys from Polish, Hungarian, and Russian families, along with Moroccan, Egyptian, and Yemenite groups.
We went through the long, routine classification interviews and tests and ended up in a boot camp called Tel Hasomer, about a half-hour’s drive out of Tel Aviv. The first thing I saw when I got there was a platoon running back and forth to a hup, two, three, four count, yelling out a slogan to the effect that they were paratroopers. There were tents spread out all over the place, and every tree was painted white at the base. Every stone was in place, and the ground was clean enough to eat from. The sergeant majors, with big mustaches, were running up and down with the troops. We lined up to get uniforms along a counter, and they threw the stuff at us: Green shirts and pants, black boots, underwear, soap, comb, toothpaste, dog tags – all of that. Eight of us were assigned to a tent, where we began making friends and wondering where we would all end up.
There were different bunkhouses for the different types of service you could volunteer for – infantry, air force, navy, paratroopers, and so forth. I was still trying to make up my mind exactly what I wanted to do. When I passed the paratrooper office, I stopped and looked at a poster of a guy stepping out of a plane into midair. I looked for a minute and said to myself: “Uri, you can’t do that. You can’t jump out of a plane. Come on. Forget it.” The another voice inside my head said: “Uri why don’t you try it and see if you can?”
I went back to my tent and thought about it. I was thinking to myself: “Look, if you sign up there, there’s no way out.” Then I thought some more, and said: “Ridiculous. If I don’t want to jump out of a plane, nobody can push me out. I mean, if I change my mind, I change my mind – and they’ll send me back to boot camp.”
So I went back to paratrooper headquarters and signed up. They put me through more tests. The doctor hit me on the back and on the head, checked my spine, made me jump three or four times, things like that. There was a lot of enthusiasm about going into the paratroopers. You got special boots with thick crepe soles, a different kind of shirt from the regular army, and a green beret. These symbols set you apart from the ordinary troops and gave your morale a boost. If you got through all the required jumping and training, you would get a red beret.
My father surprised me with a visit the next day, and he asked me what I finally decided on. When I told him it was the paratroopers’ he said: “Well, Uri, it’s going to be very tough.”
“I know, Father,” I said, “but I’ve played a lot of basketball, I’ve run a lot in my life, done a lot of swimming and diving. I’m sure it won’t be too tough.”
“We’ll wait and see. And I’m proud that you went there. But just promise me one thing. I want you to become an officer. I’m a sergeant major, but I want my son to become an officer.”
I told him that I wanted that myself, that I’d do my best to become one in the paratroops.
They shipped the paratroop recruits by truck to a special camp an hour out from Tel Aviv, near a place named Natanya. There were some engineering recruits with us, and we stopped at another camp to drop them off. One young engineer started flipping out when they told him to get off. He was shouting, crying, cursing, and yelling, “I’m not going to get off! I want to go home! I won’t get off!”
We all sat and looked at this terrible scene. They had to push him and drag him off. It was as if he was going to his death, as if he was going to be executed. It gave me a bad feeling. I was saying to myself: “My God, he’s just going to the engineering corps, and here we are volunteering for the paratroops!” Our camp was about ten minutes farther on. It gave us all a lot to think about.
When we pulled up to the paratrooper camp eight of us were left in the truck. I was chewing my gum fast. We jumped down to the ground, and suddenly we saw a sergeant coming toward us. He was a mean-looking guy. He shouted: “Get into line!” Then he came up to us, one by one: “What’s your name? Where are you from?” Right down the line.
When he came to me, he shouted: “Are you chewing gum when you’re talking to me?” I was so scared I swallowed the gum. I told him no, I wasn’t, because by now it was no longer in my mouth. But he yelled: “Spit it out!” I insisted that I didn’t have any gum in my mouth. He yelled again: “You’re chewing it. Spit it out, dammit! I want to see it on the ground.”
Then I told him I couldn’t, because I had swallowed it. He seemed to want to burst out laughing, but he controlled his face. When he got to our tent, he told us: “Listen, you guys volunteered for this service, and you don’t know what’s waiting for you here. I’m going to tear your asses apart. You’re going to work here like you never dreamed, ever in your life. For a beginning, you’re going to run around camp now, and I’m going to show you where things are. Now put your kit bags on your backs and follow me.”
It’s one thing to run, but it’s another when you have a forty-pound bag on your back. We were supposed to follow him in a line, but we fell all over ourselves. I was thinking to myself that I was a good runner, but what was he doing to us? He took us all over camp, to the dining room, to the synagogue, to the place where they stored the weapons, running every inch of the way. Then we learned that for the first three months we could never walk anywhere. We had to run in the camp whether we wanted to or not. If we were caught walking, they’d wake us up in the middle of the night and take us for a long run.
We had long runs blocked out for us every day. At first we ran without guns, then with them, then with helmets. They kept building it up. If you fell back, they pushed you. Some of the recruits would faint, and we’d have to carry them, like the wounded. I gradually became better at it as we went on to the courses where we had to crawl through obstacles, jump from high places, climb ropes, go through barrels, and go under barbed wire – all in three minutes. If you couldn’t make it in three minutes you had to do it again, and again, and again. But as the training got tougher, your body got tougher. I still hated it, even though I began to get more used to it. The long marches were the worst, even worse than the running.
Then the big day came. We were going to make our first jump from a plane. We were all waiting for that moment, really, because we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. We had had practice jumps from a parachute tower and jumps from dummy planes. But this was going to be it.
We had a big breakfast and then went to the airfield. It was hot, and I was feeling awful. We buckled on our parachutes. The plane taxied toward us. I had a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. We climbed into the plane and sat parallel to each other, after they clamped us onto an overhead wire. We were yelling hey yo, hey yo, hey yo, hey yo to drown out the noise of the plane and keep up our spirits. The plane took off and headed toward the fields. It took only a few moments to get there, and the green signal light went on. That meant to get ready. The commander yelled: “E call. Get ready.” On the command we stood up, as the red signal went on.
On that first jump I didn’t really feel anything. The door opened, and the wind burst into the plane. The engines roared louder. I saw the first guy standing in the door, then all of a sudden he was gone. It all went so fast. I found myself in front of the door. And bang, I was out. Automatically my eyes closed. There is about 50 meters of free fall before the chute bursts open. You have to count in your head, 21, 22, 23. The chute should open. If it doesn’t you’re in trouble, and you have to pull the reserve chute.
Suddenly I felt the pull, and I yelled out: “Yeah, I did it! I did it! It’s easy!” I was telling myself, “It’s not scary, it’s nothing.” You fall pretty fast, even when the chute is open. You see the land coming closer, closer, closer, and you have to get ready for it.
I fell beautifully, I did the right turn, I didn’t get hurt, perfect. I couldn’t do a better jump. But that was the only time I fell correctly.
The next jump was one I’ll never forget. I was never so scared in my life. My stomach was banging in me. A fear was building up. The feeling of stepping out of a flying plane. “What am I doing here?” I kept thinking. I started cursing myself. What the hell did I go into the paratroopers for? And then I got really scared.
My knees started trembling. I could hardly get up. I had to pull myself up on the wire. But there was no choice. There were people behind me, people in front of me. And I jumped. When the chute opened on this second jump, I saw the ground getting closer and closer. I panicked. I really smeared myself. I didn’t make the right turn, I landed with a terrible crash, and I got hurt.
We had to make seven jumps before we got our red berets. Another jump was called for very early in the morning. We were to leave camp about 4:00 A.M., fly out over the Negev desert, and jump there. The night before I had a dream in which I jumped out of the plane and the parachute didn’t open. In the dream, I was killed when I hit the ground. That really scared me until I thought, well, anybody in the paratroops could have a dream like that.
I was still disturbed by the dream as I jumped into the truck to go to the airport in the morning. Suddenly, out of the back of the truck, I saw a white dog run out on the road behind us. The truck behind us hit the dog and killed it instantly. It was almost like an omen, and it put me in a deep depression. I thought of Tzuki, my first dog, who had been killed that way. I thought of Joker at home, and I thought of my dream again. Then I said to myself: Something is going to happen to me on the jump. But I couldn’t say anything about it to anybody. For some reason, I wasn’t even afraid. I just knew that something was going to happen to me.
We boarded the plane. It took off. We flew out over the Negev to the jumping area. I got up in line and proceeded to the open door. I pushed myself out. But I guess something made me hesitate in the doorway for a second before I jumped. I didn’t jump strongly enough. As I left the door of the plane, the wind hit me back against the side of the plane and made me spin. The cable released the chute as I was still spinning, and the cords spun with me. I counted 21-22-23-24-25-26-27, and so on up past 30, which is about eleven seconds. The chute didn’t open. I was in what is called a candle fall, because that’s just what it looks like. It usually means death if you don’t open the small parachute. In those eleven seconds I had to do many things.
I had to release the sack that held the weapons, because if you don’t, you break your legs. Then I had to press open the reserve chute. I released only one side. The other side wouldn’t release. And I was falling. I saw the ground coming up, and I knew this was it. I felt I was still in the air, but suddenly everything went pitch black. And I thought: This is death. This is what death is. But I could feel myself. I knew I was alive, but I felt I was still spinning.
What I didn’t reaise was that’ as soon as I pulled the reserve chute, the big chute opened up. The little chute had blown up over my face, and my eyes were completely blacked out by it. I grabbed the harness and tried to see the ground, which is very important to avoid getting hurt. But I couldn’t see a thing. I knew I must be near the ground and was trying to brace myself for hitting it when suddenly, without warning, I did hit it. I saw stars. It hurt me terribly. I prayed to God that nothing like this would ever happen again. It was a terrible experience.
Well, we all got our red berets, but it was no piece of cake. As soon as they gave us our wings; we had to put them back into our kit bags and start off on a 110-kilometer march into the Negev. We were reminded that our training was mostly on the ground and not in the air.
Meanwhile, not much had been happening in the psychic or ESP part of my life. I kept it to myself anyway, as I usually did unless someone I liked was really interested. We were starting out on a program to get our corporal stripes, which involved a lot of military maneuvers. My assignment was to be a heavy machine gunner, using the large Browning machine gun, which is very, very heavy, something like 80 pounds. There are three parts involved, body, legs, and ammunition. I was number one on the team, and it was my job to carry the heavy, main part of the gun. Number two carried the legs, and number three carried the ammunition. I had never jumped with the big Browning machine gun before. I had heard stories that this was the toughest thing in the world to do, because of its weight. Most of the weight was inside the main part of the Browning – the barrel, another heavy tube, and the mechanism that fed the ammunition through.
The plan for the new operation was to go by truck with our kit bags to a base camp, make a jump with our heavy Browning equipment, and march back about 10 Kilometers to the camp, carrying it by hand all the way.
I came up with an idea that was pretty stupid, now that I look back on it. Since we weren’t actually going to use the gun on the first day, I made the brilliant decision to take out the very heavy parts of the Browning barrel and stow them in my kit bag at the base camp, where they’d be ready for use the following day when we really needed them. After that bad jump, I was really worried about jumping with all the weight, and I figured this would give me some practice as a warmup. I was a damned fool for doing this, because I could be hung up in the stockade for a long time if I was caught.
I closed the heavy parts up in my bag and left them in my tent. We went out to the plane. The shell of the Browning machine gun was strapped to me. Even that was heavy enough. The jump went well enough. The gun was tied with a cable about 5 meters long so I wouldn’t hit myself with it when I hit the ground.
I landed successfully and immediately got myself organized, packing up the chute, picking up the machine gun, and getting together with the others to begin the 10-kilometer march back to the camp. I slung the Browning, zipped up in its canvas bag, on my back. Usually you have someone else carry it for you, it’s so heavy. But I knew if I did that I’d give away my secret.
A friend insisted on helping me, because everybody was saying, Look at Geller, he’s carrying that damn thing alone. I let my friend carry it up the first hill, a long haul. He told me that this was unusual, he never before could carry the gun more than a few hundred meters alone without rest. Now, he said, it was a lot easier. He felt he was getting stronger. I would have thought that was funny, but right then I saw a jeep pull up to where we were resting. There was a general in it, and I knew immediately what was going to happen. I grabbed my forehead and said to myself, “My God, they’re going to put us through a maneuver!” This happened every once in a while, when high staff officers arrived for a surprise exercise during a routine practice. We would then go through an exercise just as if the enemy were really attacking, using our guns with live ammunition.
They told us to spread out. We were ordered to set up the guns, ready to fire. There I was with an empty Browning gun, with no barrel inside it and no firing pin. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to take the canvas off, but I did. I could look through the open tube of the gun, and I could see daylight through it. The number two man came up with the ammunition belt, and I fed it into the empty outside casing and cocked the gun, knowing that nothing would happen. I wanted to bury myself in the ground. I knew that the penalty for this would be many months in a prison camp. I knew it would ruin my army career.
The general’s jeep came up behind us. We were high on a cliff, standing by for the order to fire at the imaginary enemy. I opened the lid of the Browning and looked again. There was the bullet, just hanging in the belt and flopping there with nothing to fire it. I heard the sergeant major yell: “Group A, open fire!” They started firing as we stood by. I was trembling and just about in shock, with the generals standing behind us, all their insignia shining in the sun.
I figured that maybe if I took my small gun, called an Oozie, and put it next to the big one, it would make some kind of noise, even though it made a sharp, high bang compared to the Browning. Then the order came for us to fire, and I pulled both triggers.
What happened next is something I can hardly believe to this day, even with the many things that have happened to me since. I know anyone will have trouble believing it. All I can say is that it happened; there is no question in my mind that it did. It is not a fantasy, not a daydream, not anything that I made up in my imagination. I would have no reason to make this up, because what I’m about to tell strains my credibility with anyone reading about it. But it is a clear, hard fact.
When ~ pulled the triggers both guns started firing. The Browning was firing, firing, firing. The bullets were flying out. I couldn’t believe it. How could it be? I had looked inside twice just moments before, and the inside of the gun had been vacant. I was shooting steadily, and the ammunition box was emptying fast. There wasn’t a bullet left in it. I thought about God immediately. I said, thank you, God, for doing this for me. One of the officers behind me tapped me on the helmet and said: “Good shooting, soldier.”
There were no more bullets left when the firing was over. There was a whole pile of empty cartridges from the Browning lying around. The gun was dripping black oil from the shooting. I put my hand on the Browning, and I kissed it. I couldn’t understand how it had happened. I didn’t even want to understand. It was a mystery like the machine gun incident with my father years before. I put the gun back in the canvas and zipped it up, and we marched back to the tent area.
When we got there, I rushed to my kit bag and opened it up. The barrel was still there, and so were the other parts. I ran back to the Browning and looked at it again. It was still empty. And now the most shocking part hit me. I drew out the barrel from the kit bag and looked through it. It had been clean as a whistle when we started out on the maneuver. Now it was dirty, covered with grime, exactly the way it would have been after firing. I mean, I had to clean it. That barrel had been fired. There was no question about it – yet I had left it in the kit bag and definitely had not opened it until after our return to camp.
This experience anticipated others that came along when I was older. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. But that is true of many things that have happened since.
As I was cleaning the gun, I was still in shock. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was thinking back to Cyprus, to my teacher and the telepathy we had done together, the bending of metal objects, and the starting up of watches that were broken. I was just thinking to myself: Was it all just one thing going on here? Or was it a new phenomenon every time? Because I knew it was a phenomenon. I didn’t blame it on anybody. I knew nobody was tricking me.
I couldn’t tell anyone. I had to keep it in my own head, because who would believe me? I had to accept it as a miracle, and it scared the hell out of me.
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