By Paul Harris
MANY is the time I’ve tramped the streets of Manchester or London with Uri Geller.
Invariably he has sported a beanie which hid his appearance because, without it, progress would be slow.
So instantly recognisable is he that he is stopped for autographs every few yards.
These days, the Israeli-born paranormalist, after three decades living in a Berkshire mansion, is back where it all began . . . in a fairly modest apartment in Jaffa.
And far from making himself anonymous, he happily wanders the streets, usually wearing shorts, popping into the local cafe, where they greet him as just Uri, and he tends to be left alone without the clamour his celebrity attracts elsewhere.
But he’s a man on a mission; a mission to open Museum Uri Geller in a fabulous historic building in Jaffa.
Just over a year ago, he was walking with his wife Chana when a woman stopped him and said she had something to show him.
It was the 500 square metre building, with two large cellars that will now house the museum and with which he instantly fell in love. It is less than two minutes’ walk from his home.
Its foundations are 2,000 years old. It was derelict and 400 years ago, when Libyan pilgrims came to pray in the Libyan synagogue in Jaffa, they slept there.
It’s a fabulous place with high, vaulted arches.
In its present condition, it’s hard to imagine the finished product, but Uri has a clear vision. The interior is already imprinted on his mind.
He has always had a thing about old buildings, probably sensing their history with that innate second sense he possesses.
Of the Jaffa building, he says: “I will rebuild and preserve it. Stones will be sprayed but not damaged.”
He’s discovered cellars that were used in the past for Jewish rituals and to store water and oil.
There are ancient curved loops that were for tying up animals.
There’s a blocked tunnel which apparently led to the ancient port of Jaffa, and Uri is working in conjunction with the antiquities department.
Everything in the museum, which will open before the end of 2018, will have a connection with Uri.
His famous 1974 custom-built Cadillac, festooned with thousands of bent spoons and forks signed by royalty, rocks stars, presidents and other personalities, will be on permanent display.
There will be a spoon 18.5 metres long, weighing eight tons, with a slight bend, naturally.
Earlier this year, Uri bought at auction, for $28,000, a 1951 letter from Albert Einstein to eminent physicist David Bohm who had escaped McCarthyism in America and was lecturing in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Einstein writes that he had heard Bohm was planning to move to Israel and counsels him against it. “Israel, he wrote, “is not ready for you.”
Bohm didn’t heed the warning and took a post at the Haifa Technion. He soon left for England.
That letter will be on display. The connection with Uri is that MI5 had been asked by the CIA to conduct a test on him. Bohm was involved in that research.
Another exhibit will be the late Yitzkak Rabin’s binoculars recently bought at auction by Uri.
The former Israeli prime minister was Uri’s commander-in-chief during the Six Day War.
By coincidence, the auction was held just three kilometres from where the paranormalist was wounded during that conflict.
And, in a manifestation that could occur only where Uri Geller is involved, the bidding started and stopped abruptly at $5,000 when the internet crashed . . . leaving him the winner and the auctioneer commenting that it had to have been due to Uri’s power.
Michael Jackson’s jacket, and the sofa on which Uri and Chana married, with Jacko as best man, will be in the Jaffa museum.
Pieces by David Bowie, Salvador Dali, a Minox spy camera used by famed aeronautical engineer Werner von Braun to picture Uri bending a spoon, Uri’s own Mossad spy camera and 1,500 newspaper and magazine covers will be there, too.
Among the latter will be a Jewish Telegraph front page from 2000, featuring a mind-bending incident at this newspaper’s 50th anniversary dinner when then-Liverpool Lord Mayor Eddie Clein’s official chain fell apart after being warned by Uri not to venture too close to him.
Video footage of it might be included too.
Uri is determined that the museum will be accessible to everyone with children and military personnel admitted free.
He plans to bequeath the museum to Old Jaffa.