ALTHOUGH I WAS prepared for a new adventure, going to the kibbutz didn’t turn out the way I had imagined it. I had never been away from home before. I was worried, because I had heard that the kids in the kibbutz didn’t accept city kids very easily. I was tough in some ways, and I knew I could stand on my own feet. But it was strange to leave the city, and I began to get mixed feelings about the whole thing. I had to say good-bye to Tzuki, my dog.
The kibbutz Hatzor Ashdod was about 30 kilometers south of Tel Aviv. It was a beautiful place built on a hill, made up of little white houses with red roofs. There were trees and grass, a swimming pool, and a big dining room for everybody to eat in. And there were wide fields and orange groves where we worked. My mother took me to the kibbutz, and when she left I began to get the first small twinges of homesickness. I was taken to my quarters, which I would share with eight other boys and girls, and a teacher. Then I was introduced to my “second family.” They were Hungarian, and they were nice people with children of their own.
It was awkward meeting the other kids for the first time, but they too were nice. However, the ones who had been born on the kibbutz were a little suspicious of me and the few others who had come from the city. I couldn’t help feeling like a stranger. They had a word for city boys – ironim – and it immediately separated us from the others.
The routine at the kibbutz was simple and kept us busy. Everybody met in the morning for breakfast in the big communal dining hall. Then there would be school, work in the fields, swimming, and sports. The school work was light and not as hard as in the city.
We used to join our “second families” around four in the afternoon for coffee or tea, then have dinner together in the dining hall in the evening. It should have been a happy and productive life, and I guess for a lot of people it was. I was nearly ten years old now, but I missed my home terribly. The homesickness seemed to creep up on me. I could feel it growing and gnawing at my heart, and in my stomach, too. I remember that when I went to work in the fields I would go alone, far, far away from the others. And from the hill I used to look to the north, because Tel Aviv was there, and that was home. At night, I used to look at the moon and the stars because I knew my mother would be seeing that moon and those stars at the same time.
And I was torn between two feelings. I was dying for my mother to come and visit, but I didn’t want her to, because on her first visit the kids had made fun of her lipstick. She was dressed smartly, which was not the way of the kibbutz. I don’t think they reaised that she was a hard-working woman who dressed the. way they did in the city.
Life in the kibbutz was run according to communal ideas that went against my thinking. Everything belonged to everybody, and I had to share everything. The only things I didn’t share with the others were my thoughts, which I kept to myself. I had not thought much about the strange things that had happened with the watches and the bending of metals, and I didn’t try to do anything along that line, although it sometimes happened when I wasn’t thinking about it.
I think life in the kibbutz has changed now, but then I felt that, whatever I did, they would never accept a kid from the city. I slowly began to hate life there. I missed my dog. I missed my home. The routine went on every day without much change. We picked oranges. We picked bananas. We dug potatoes. We worked in the barn where the cows were. We worked in the dining room.
In the classroom, my marks were best in drawing and music. But the school work was easy, almost too easy. Even though I was not a good student, I had no trouble with it. I guess I liked that part of it.
I was so happy when my father came to see me. He would drive down in his jeep, and the kids forgot to tease me when he came. He would telephone me and say he was coming at such and such a time, and I would walk far down a long, dusty road to meet him. There were many cars that passed, raising the dust in the road, but I could always tell when my father’s jeep was approaching, even though the dust cloud was far away.
He brought me all kinds of interesting things-pouches from the army, army boots, souvenirs. Then, toward the end of 1956, just before the Suez war between the Israelis and the Arabs broke out, my father came and said that the situation was quite bad and he thought there was going to be a war. Then the war did break out, and he was gone. I remember that you could hear the faint thundering of the artillery and the bombs in the distance. There was an air force base right next to the kibbutz, and at night we used to hear all the heavy American-made planes coming in with supplies. I used to want to be in one of those planes myself, to land and take off in them. My mind was filled with thoughts of both my father and mother. I would think: What is my father doing now? What kind of situation is he in? And what is my mother doing? What does she think of him now that they are divorced? Does she still care about him? Doesn’t she care? I knew that somewhere out there my father was fighting for me, to guard me.
My mother had met a man she liked very much. His name was Ladislas Gero, and he was a Hungarian Jew who had gone to live in Cyprus. He was a well-built man in his fifties, a widower and a concert pianist. After escaping from Hungary, he and his first wife had formed a cabaret dance team and wept on a tour to Cyprus. They stayed there in Cyprus and put together enough money to buy a small hotel. It was called the Pension Ritz and catered to the singers, dancers, and musicians who used to perform in the many cabarets of Nicosia. The artists liked to stay in his smaller pension, because they liked Ladislas and because his pension was more like home and less expensive than the big hotels.
When his wife died, Gero had gone to Israel and met my mother through friends of hers in Haifa. One day my mother came to the kibbutz with Ladislas and told me that they were going to be married. And even though I had mixed feelings, I was happy for my mother, because I knew she was going to change her life and that she would be able to stop working so hard. I was even happier when I learned that I was going to be able to leave the kibbutz and move to Cyprus with them. Ladislas was wearing a necktie when they visited. Some of the kids had never seen one before, and someone asked, “What is that cloth hanging around his neck?”
Before I left the kibbutz, I got word that my father was alive and safe and on his way to see me. I’ll never forget that day. He came in a command car, all bearded and dusty, and he was holding two rifles in his hands. It was one of my happiest moments. He told me that he was going to keep the rifles locked up and give them to me when I became eighteen. I had prayed very hard for him, and to learn that he was alive and well brought me great joy.
I returned from the kibbutz to Tel Aviv to get ready to go with my mother to Cyprus. It was an exciting prospect to be going to another country, another world, where everything would be new. All I knew was that Cyprus was an island in the Mediterranean not too far from Israel, and that we would be living in my stepfather’s small hotel in Nicosia. I saw that my mother was happy about going, and this made me feel good for her.
I guess my spirits had been so low when I was at the kibbutz that nothing much happened there with the energy forces. I didn’t even try to show them off, and when anything happened I kept it quiet for fear of being teased again. But in Tel Aviv, before we left for Cyprus, one unusual incident occurred that I remember very clearly. My mother had gone to Haifa, about 100 kilometers from Tel Aviv, and was expecting to return that night. I was eating at the kitchen table when I found I couldn’t eat any more. Suddenly I knew that something was happening to my mother. She was sending me a sharp, clear message. 1 couldn’t tell exactly what the message was, but it was very frightening.
I ran around the house trying to find the address she was staying at in Haifa. I couldn’t find it. I was scared. I tried to go to sleep but couldn’t. Finally she came home and found me out of bed. The first thing I said was:
“Mother, what happened to you?” She said: “You knew, didn’t you?”
She didn’t say, “How did you know?” She just said, “You knew.” Then she told me that she had been riding in a taxi and that the driver had smashed into another car. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt, but I felt that impact from more than a hundred kilometers away.
There had been other incidents like that in my childhood. They might be put down as coincidence, but my feelings when they happened were so strong and so clear that I am reasonably sure that they were more than that. I went to the zoo one time with my mother a year or so before I went to the kibbutz. Originally my father was going to take me, but he was unable to get leave, and I was terribly disappointed and very sad. I had had my heart set on it. So my mother took me in his place.
Much as I had wanted to go there, we had no sooner entered the zoo than a feeling of terror came over me. I didn’t want to say so, but I couldn’t help myself. I said: “Mother, I don’t feel like being here today. We’ve got to get out of here.”
“But, Uri,” my mother said, “you were sad all day long. Why on earth do you want to leave?”
“Mother, I have a very bad feeling. I can’t describe it.”
“What do you mean, Uri?” she asked. “How? Why?”
All I could say was, “Mother, please. We’ve got to get out of here.”
Then she met a friend and stopped to talk with her. I started pulling her hand very strongly. I said, “Mother, please let’s get out.”
We started for the entrance gate. No sooner had we done so than alarm bells started ringing – a lion had broken loose from his cage. People were running and screaming, climbing trees, jumping into the pond. Panic seemed to be everywhere. The lion was running around slowly, but by that time we were right near the gate and got out safely. Fortunately, no one was harmed, and they recaptured the lion. The point was that I didn’t usually react like this, and my mother had been very surprised when I insisted on getting out of the zoo.
Another time, my father was taking me for a ride in a big armored car at his army base, a halfback vehicle. I used to love those times when he took me around the army camps. He was showing me how it could maneuver, and we started up an extremely steep test embankment. I wasn’t afraid of this kind of thing. I loved it. But just as we started up, I yelled out to my father to turn the wheel and get off the bank. My father was startled, but my yell was so strong that he turned off from going up the hill. He told me the halfback would take it, but turned back toward the garage. Almost immediately, there was a loud bang, and one huge caterpillar tread of the vehicle broke in half.
His face was white. If we had gone up the hill and the tread had broken the way it did, he said, we would have slid out of control and been crushed. I didn’t know anything about telepathy or clairvoyance then, but there was no doubt in my mind that these things were not just luck or coincidence.
Since he was a long-time army man, my father was very orderly and neat in everything he did. He had a beautiful collection of medals he had won: the African Cross, the King George medal, and all the ribbons and decorations that go with them. He kept them all together in a leather suitcase. At times I used to dig out that old suitcase and open it up to look at both the decorations and the pictures he kept there, all neatly packed. There were pictures of Tobruk and the pyramid, and there was one special picture I loved – of a mummified pharaoh, partly eaten away. The picture had a morbid attraction for me. There were others of British generals and of my father at the time he was with Montgomery’s army, posing near the Sphinx and riding in light armored tanks.
I would look at these pictures of him and hope that I would look like him when I grew up, because he was so good-looking. It was always one of my dreams to be like my father and to be in the army – but the dream of being a movie star still stuck with me, too. That had begun back at the old school in Tel Aviv, when Naomi and I used to sneak away and go to see films of Tarzan and adventure and monster films before that terrible experience with the Torah.
One day I was looking through the decorations and noticed that the two British decorations were gone from the suitcase. I had not taken them out, and I knew they had been in there the last time I looked. I didn’t dare tell my father, because I was sure he would think I had taken them. But several months later he was home, and he came to me and said: “Uri, did you take the two British decorations out of the case?”
“No, father, I didn’t.”
“Are you sure you didn’t?”
“No, father. I look at your things, and sometimes I play with them. But I have always put them back carefully.” I felt terrible, because I knew they were very important to him, yet I knew I hadn’t removed them.
Then, in a way I can never explain, I had a strong, almost overpowering and unmistakable feeling that I knew where they were. I said, “Father, I think they are up in the storage room.”
“What in the hell are they doing up there? How did they get there?”
I didn’t know how, I was just sure they were in the storage room.
My father had to leave before I could get a ladder and climb up to look. When I did, I crawled among the old clothes and boxes and books to find the medals. I felt sort of foolish, because I kneel I hadn’t put them up there, and certainly neither my father nor my mother had. There were tins of food – my parents had stored extra ones during the war – and many other things that collect in an attic. In among all this I found an old kit bag, and something told me to open it up. Now, that was ridiculous, because there was no way those medals could be in that bag. I opened it up, and there was a bunch of old shirts and things, but I kept poking down to the bottom. I found both medals there.
I was really surprised, because I was just going on this strange feeling, nothing else. I even began to suspect that my father had hidden them in the bag to protect them. Or maybe he had put them there and forgotten about it. But that didn’t make sense either.
When my father came home again, I told him I had found the medals, way up in the storage attic, and deep down in the kit bag. He laughed and said: “You didn’t have to make up a story about it. You don’t have to lie, Uri. I’m just glad that you found them.” This was the old trouble: No one believed me when I was telling the truth.
An even stranger thing happened once when I went to visit my father at his army camp. His office was in a sort of cage where they kept the guns and ammunition. I loved to walk around and look at the machine guns and rifles, all coated with grease for protection. This time he let me go out with him to the range as he sometimes did, and he brought along a small machine gun. He had trained me always to be very careful with guns of all types, but he let me fire a few rounds on the range on that day. I got a big kick out of that. He trained me never to point a gun, even though you thought it was empty, and never to wave it around.
After we had finished shooting, he showed me how to double check that all the bullets were out of the gun. He did this carefully, thoroughly, showing me the empty chambers and running his finger inside to double check. With the gun empty, I pointed it out to the range once more just to hear the click. When I pulled the trigger, the gun fired and a bullet came out. My father turned pale. He grabbed the gun from me, cocked it again, and checked it. There was great confusion on his face, and he was very upset.
Now I reaise that there could be reasonable explanations for this. You could say that my father had not checked the gun completely to be sure there were no bullets left. As a matter of fact, this is what I would believe if somebody else told me such a story. But I knew, even if nobody else did, that the gun had been empty.
These incidents were important hints of the many strange and incredible things to come. At the time, I didn’t reaise that there must be a psychic force working; I had no idea of that. I was just puzzled and hurt because no one would believe me
When we were getting ready to move to Cyprus there was again a big heartbreak that I would have to face. There was no way I could take my dog with me: I had to give Tzuki away. I remember the day that a friend of ours who lived on a farm came to take him. I kissed and hugged Tzuki, and I cried. Then I watched them take him down the street. But I knew he was going to have a nice home, and that made me feel better.
I had little time to think about anything else. I was about eleven years old, and moving was a big thing for me. In spite of the excitement, there were some things I worried about besides Tzuki. I worried about how I would get along with my new stepfather, and how I would get along in a place where they didn’t speak Hebrew.
My mother had been to Cyprus to visit my new father and told me what a beautiful place it was. She said Ladislas had bought a nice dog for me. I looked forward to that. The day we left, my father drove us to Haifa, where the boat was sailing from. The port was full of people, American tourists, seamen, even Russians milling around. It was very exciting. A new Italian ship was going to take us to Cyprus. I began to forget whatever sadness I had about leaving. My father told me I would be coming back to Israel to visit. That made me feel good.
We went through customs and boarded the boat. My father was allowed to stay on board until they gave the signal to leave. I saw him standing on the dock in his uniform as the boat left, and we waved to each other. I don’t know what he was thinking then. Maybe he felt good also, because he knew that I would be secure and would have a nice place to live.
The trip was a great adventure for me. I went up to the captain’s quarters and down to the engine room and all over the ship. I remember how Haifa disappeared into the mist, as if it had been a dream. The voyage took about two days, and I never got seasick.
For some reason, Ladislas was unable to meet us when we landed, so I went about helping my mother with the luggage. While we waited for a taxi to Nicosia, I saw a little kiosk. My first thought was to send a postcard back to my father in Israel.
Cyprus looked different, kind of Arabic to me, something like a movie set. Along the road to Nicosia I saw many little villages, and I learned that some of them were Turkish and some were Greek. The Turks and Greeks never mixed with each other. Fighting could break out at any time, I heard. In one village I would see the red flag with the white Turkish star, and in another I would see the blue and white flag of the Greeks. There were also British camps, with British Bags flying above them. It was like an island of international villages.
The road was narrow and winding, and we dodged donkeys here and there as we wound up and down many hills and valleys. After less than an hour’s drive we were approaching the outskirts of Nicosia, which is in the center of the island and away from the coast. We pulled up in front of the pension, and Ladislas was standing outside waiting for us. And suddenly, seeing him again, I felt that I liked him.
He greeted us and started to take us into the hotel. There were big stone steps leading up to it, about ten of them, and a big iron fence around it that reminded me of the Arabic garden.
The inn was quite large, with a red tile roof, a huge garden with a big oak tree in it, and a garage. It seemed to be a mixed English-Greek style. There were fourteen or fifteen rooms in it. I liked it. But the biggest thrill of all was that Ladislas had two dogs for me. Joker was a wire-haired fox terrier, and Peter a mixed-breed terrier. When I saw them I knew I’d be happy. They jumped all over me and licked me, and we played together even before I went into the hotel.
When we went inside, it was cool and relaxing, with thick walls and a big reception room with old but comfortable furniture. My stepfather took me up to my room, and there was another surprise waiting for me. It was a big box on the table. I ran to open it, and inside was a model of a beautiful blue Cadillac. I was so happy. I thanked him for it, and I knew that I was at home.
I would be at the hotel for a month or two, but there was a problem about school. My mother and father had spent a lot of time trying to figure out what would be the best thing to do. The schools in Nicosia were not very good, and my mother felt I should go if possible to one where I could learn English. The best choice seemed to be a school in Larnaca, where we had landed, called the American School. I would have to board there and come home just to visit, and they would come to visit me. After the kibbutz I didn’t like the idea, but there seemed to be no other choice.
It was a rather large school with old, crumbling buildings. When I arrived, I said goodbye to my parents and was led to a dormitory with thirty or forty beds in it. Almost immediately I felt lonely and homesick again, this time in a strange country with strange languages being spoken. It was an all-boys school, with mostly Greek boys, several of other nationalities, and only a few Americans, even though it was called the American School. Our classes were in a wooden shack that didn’t look as if it could stand up very long. One other Israeli boy was there, but since he wasn’t a boarding student we didn’t become close friends. Most of my friends were English boys, and I began learning English fast.
We went to class and played tennis and other sports. Once a week they let us go into Larnaca to see a movie. I would buy ice cream at the same kiosk I had seen when we landed.
But I was still lonely and homesick. I seemed unable to shake that feeling. I remember one thing I used to do every once in a while. I would stand by the road going back toward Nicosia, watch the cars going that way, and wish I could go back there with them. I wanted to go back so badly.
I wasn’t at the school in Larnaca very long before violence again surrounded us. It was now 1957. The Greeks on Cyprus were demanding union with Greece; the British had just deported Archbishop Makarios; the Turks wanted the island split up; and the Greek underground forces known as the EOKA were terrorizing both the British and the Turks. I remember we went to class one day and suddenly heard the sirens blowing. We heard ambulances rushing to the Greek hospital right next to the school grounds and machine guns firing in the distance.
It wasn’t long after the fighting started that my mother and stepfather came to the school and said that because of the troubles they had come to take me home. I would go to school in Nicosia, closer to home. I had learned to speak English very fast there, which had been one of the reasons for my going to the American School. But even going to a school near my parents in Nicosia would be dangerous, for there were troubles there, too. (The fighting and the shooting were talked about as “troubles.” Perhaps it was an attempt to make the situation sound better than it really was. )
So my mother and my stepfather took me out of the school at Larnaca and brought me back to Nicosia. I was very glad to go. When we got there, they finally decided that the situation in Nicosia was too dangerous for me to go to school right away. There was shooting everywhere on the island, and everyone was scared. Curfews were declared that lasted many days, and no one could go out. At the age of eleven I was seeing more violence and destruction, and it was a horrible experience.
At the hotel, singers, dancers, and even acrobats were stranded. I loved meeting them, and I used to pass the time by talking to them. They came from everywhere: Germany, England, Spain, America, Greece, Scandinavia. To a very few of them I showed the bending and the watch-jumping. I remember one couple, a British civil engineer and his wife, who was a dancer. He used to bring in stories about what was happening in the British camps and also bring back some meat from them, which was very hard to get. During some of the curfews there was a strange silence in the streets, and we would barbecue the meat in the garden of the hotel. At those times the performers would tell stories of their lives, and there would be singing with a guitar as the smell of the barbecue filled the garden. They were all waiting for the curfew to lift and the cabarets to open again. It was very strange during those beautiful, peaceful moments when the shooting and the fighting stopped. I got to like those curfew days.
There was a bicycle in our garage that my stepfather promised to give me as a bar mitzvah present when I became thirteen. I used to long for it, to be able at least to cycle around the big parking lot next to the hotel, where there were no cars and I would be close enough to the hotel to be safe. But there was a big combination lock on the bike, and I was not allowed to ride it.
But the temptation was too strong. One day, I said to myself: “If I can bend keys and tell what my mother is thinking or has done, or move watches or clocks, I’ll bet I can open that lock!” It was an exciting thought. I couldn’t resist it. I tried the lock several times, but it wouldn’t open. Then I concentrated very hard on the lock for about two minutes. I tried it again. It immediately opened. I still remember the feeling of pulling the lock open. It was amazing.
I sneaked the bike out of the garage and tried to ride it. I must have fallen fifty times, but I finally got the knack, and I had this wonderful feeling of freedom. Of course, it wasn’t long before my stepfather found out I had opened the lock and was using the bicycle. He was absolutely amazed that I had found the combination for the lock. He didn’t ask me how I did it. He just said, “Well, I don’t know how you opened it, but as long as you have, you can have the bicycle.”
I guess I was lucky to have such tolerant parents. This was perhaps the first time that I had put the powers, whatever they were, to what you might call a practical use, as mischievous as it was. There was much more of this to come – sometimes, as with the bicycle lock, when I tried deliberately to do something, and other times when I would have no intention of making things happen, but they would anyway. In either case, I would be reminded of the fact that things were happening that were very far from normal, and this was a condition that was to stay with me for the rest of my life.
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