CHAPTER ONE - Nexus in JerusalemI made two trips to the Holy Land in 1973. I had planned a third trip, but something called “The Yom Kippur War” got in the way.
Wars always seem to be getting in the way of something or other in the Holy Land. I remember being loaned a little Cessna aircraft and a pilot to fly over and around the area by the Israeli government, during one of the trips. Somewhere in the makeshift archives I keep of things from my now 75-year long personal past, is a picture I took from that plane, when the pilot dipped a wing and made a slow circle while he pointed out three sites, all of which were within the municipality known as Jerusalem: the “Wailing Wall” which is the only remnant of the Second Temple and a sacred symbol to the Jews of today, the magnificent mosque of the Dome of the Rock said to be built on the exact site of the rock from which Moslems believe Muhammad ascended to the heavens, and a Christian Church named after the Garden next to it - Gethsemane - where we are told Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. I used to keep the picture over my desk to remind myself of all the blood that has been spilled throughout the ages because of a belief in what was purported to be “Holy” by one group of people or another.
Nor was the irony lost on me on Trip 1 which was to make initial preparations for the event that would take place during Trip 2 - a television production that had as its focus, a two-day celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Israel. I recall thinking that if enough misery hadn’t been caused in this City in the name of religion, now it was also being added to, by layer upon layer of more misery in the name of statehood.
But for two days, misery and the shedding of blood would be set aside in a “Salute to Israel”.
The first night consisted of a star-studded concert on the grounds of “The First Temple” built by King Solomon, and featured performances by a legendary international star whose career had already spanned two continents and five decades and who was just as famous for her activities as a member of the French Underground during World War II - Josephine Baker, world-renowned violinist Isaac Stern, and what would be the last public performance of the great cellist Pablo Casals- who was over 90 years old at the time and still played as if his fingers and hands were themselves being guided by something sacred.
For the second night we traveled to and set our cameras up in an amphitheater that itself dated back two thousand years, as did the village situated by the sea that gave it its name – Caesarea; where megastar Rudolph Nureyev and the Royal Ballet performed their unique interpretation of the biblical story of “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.
And all of it was presented under the personal sponsorship of a woman who herself was a legend in her own time - Golda Meir; who understood fully the implications of the cause that co-sponsored the weekend-long event, and supported it wholeheartedly-- the establishment of a fund for building a school that Arab and Jewish children might attend together without fear of violence. Somewhere in that makeshift archive of mine there’s an audiotape on one side of which there’s a recording of a conversation I had with Mrs. Meir .
And on the other side of the tape is a recording of a delightful conversation I had the privilege of having with the Israel’s “Founding Father", an 87 years old David Ben Gurion.
Him: ( in thick Jewish accent) : “Vere are you from
again, young man?”
equally thick New York accent) : “The Bronx”
Him: “ Ah yes, da Bronx... nice place, da Bronx... You
know I lived in America, too...”
And then he’d go back to telling me about the
history that he lived... “...Vell in 1926...”
I’d have a hard time locating any of these things
I’ve mentioned, now... tapes, pictures... but they’re there. And they’ll all soon
be gone... as will I. “Relative
permanence” as David Bohm would often remind us, is, after all, the name of the game.
The day after it was all over, I was in my hotel
packing when I came across the latest
“Krishnamurti Bulletin” – which was published quarterly back then. It
suddenly dawned on me that there was no reason to rush back to the States, as
there might have been after my first visit in May to attend the “Emmy Awards” –
Television’s equivalent of the film world’s “ Oscars”. The TV program for which I had been a writer since
1967 - the Carol Burnett Show - had been nominated four times before but had not
won anything... yet. Even though it was up for a number of awards again that year,
attending those events had become somewhat boring – especially since we ( or I)
had gotten kind of used to not winning. For those in Show Business who’ve
experienced similar thoughts during their careers, it was a sure sign that the
bloom was off the rose, and life within that often glamorized existence had
become about as glamorous as driving a truck.
So, instead of rushing back then, I decided to take
a side trip to England and visit with Mr. J. Krishnamurti (JK) who I knew was at
Brockwood Park, his school in England. I was almost always welcomed to visit
him, as long as I called ahead. And that’s exactly what I had done after Trip 1 to
Israel, and as a result did indeed visit with him and see Brockwood Park for
the first time; only to learn later that
we had actually won the coveted Emmy award for (believe it or not) Comedy
Writing. Consequently, rather than personally receiving that deceptively heavy gold statue
of some winged woman holding the world in the form of a globe in her hands - as
many (including me) had often envisioned themselves doing on TV for the world
to see... I was in England, probably having lunch with or walking through the beautiful English countryside with JK . For years afterward I
would consider the significance of that trade-off and ultimately perceive it as
a foreshadowing of things to come.
I decided to take some well-earned time off for myself again and perhaps visit the person
whose presence in my life by then, was, in one way or another, rapidly
replacing what I would have sworn would always be of primary importance to me since the day I first set foot on a stage as a
3 ½ years old contestant in a talent contest in which my parents had entered me. I wore a sailor’s suit and waved an American flag as I sang a
chauvinistic little ditty called “Over The Sea, Let’s Go Men” . I won the contest and a secure hold on what I suppose had been most kids' dream back then of wanting to be in Show Business since movies were first invented.
Re: that dream... It's
all about some deep need - or is it a desire - for attention, isn't
it? The focus changed from movies to music in the '60's and ever since the Beatles most kids have dreamed of being Rock Stars ... Especially the kind captured by the Dire Strait's starkly accurate lyric - "Money for nuthin' and chicks for free". Nowadays, it's probably the seemingly more benign Jonas Brothers and Mylie Cyrus. And lest there be any concern about the "idols" getting younger and younger - there was a time when the biggest Movie Star in the world was a prepubescent Shirley Temple!
Let's pause here for a moment-- I can actually still see in my mind's eye exactly what I saw as one of those prepubescent kids that evening from the stage of the Cameo Theater in Jersey City, New Jersey2 . There was a bright light shining in my eyes from the upper reaches of the back of the theater. Th rest of it was darkened, but I could still make out the faces of the people in the audience. And all eyes were on ME! The experience was an unexpected but not at all unpleasant shock to my entire system. In fact it was amazingly satisfying. Some deep seated need, or was it a desire, was being fulfilled, and I've never forgotten the feeling.
2 Truth in advertising - My father owned the theater.
But that desire seemed to be flagging, now. Or maybe it was being replaced by a different sort of need. In fact I even joked to my wife about it after
divorce proceedings had begun the year before in 1972, saying that she should
sue JK for alienation of affections.
Truth be told, since meeting him everything that I would have sworn
identified me for who I was, when he entered our lives four years before in
1969, now seemed different. I couldn’t exactly say how or why, but even the flowers
on either side of the ascending walkway that led to the front door of our beautiful
home in Beverly Hills, California looked different. Not better, just different.
I had even already considered leaving Show Business,
except that I had no idea what I would do in place of it. But the thought was already
And perhaps I would have stayed in it, had I known that after leaving it, I’d spend the next 40 years
trying to answer the question that JK
himself would ask me during one of our more intense personal
conversations, along the way:
“Sir,”, he asked quite pointedly, as he sat next to me on the sofa in the living room in Malibu,
California that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, “What do you want to do with your
life?” More about that later.
But that was all in the future. At the moment, I had
finished this job as the co-producer and writer of a pretty interesting show,
had some time on my hands and was aware that in a few days JK would be holding
one of his weekend long tent meetings on the grounds of the Brockwood Park
School. However, this time, I had forgotten to bring along the Brockwood Park
telephone number, and calling ahead was always the proper protocol. That was when
I saw that on the back page of the Bulletin I was holding there was a list of Krishnamurti offices that
existed around the world at the time. And one of those offices was in
Jerusalem. Perhaps they would have the BP phone number.
The name and address on the back page of the
Bulletin read: Mr. I. Woolfson, 19
Yardal Hasirah Road, Katamon, Jerusalem; a neighborhood - the cab driver told
me – whose name referred to the old
Greek Monastery that is located there. I happen to be of Greek heritage, so its
proximity to my destination was logged into my memory banks and psychologically
underlined in both of what were my own primary and interchangeable languages as
a child, Greek and English. “Katamon” in Greek – literally means “below” (Kata)
-- the monastery.
Mr. Woolfson turned out to be an affable gentleman
seated behind a desk in a simply furnished one-room office. He apologized for
not having the Brockwood Park number I was seeking, but he offered to call his
sister in England, whose husband, he said, was a Trustee at the BP school.
Perhaps they could inform JK of my request to visit.
I was of course grateful for any assistance Mr.
Woolfson, his sister and brother-in-law might provide and I sat down in a chair
and waited, while he dialed the number in England.
When he addressed his sister, it was the
first time I ever heard the name “Saral”, who apparently was married to a
gentleman whose first name was David.
Saral said she would ask David to deliver the
message to JK and call her brother back, in
a few minutes. It was while we were waiting for the call back that Mr.
Woolfson mentioned the complete name of the man who, up till that moment I had
never heard of, but who, along with
JK, would change the course of my life
forever – David Bohm.
A day or so before my departure, I was having lunch in the dining area of the beautiful new (at the time) Sherover Theatre, with the equally legendary Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kolleck and some others with whose help we had successfully pulled off a two-day “Live Event”. I recall we were talking about how we had managed to wrestle the only two Color-TV cameras that existed in Israel at the time – this was ’73! – from the great Isaac Stern, who himself was planning to use them during the second day of the event - when we needed to have them transported to Caesarea for the evening’s Nureyev performance.
But Stern had reserved them first for his own Master’s Class that he would be conducting for a group of select students chosen from around the world, during that same day.
I had just finished telling the group about Stern smiling as he finally relinquished possession of the cameras, and saying something about his inability to resist my “old New York charm “ - I suppose my accent was the tip-off - when all of a sudden the opening notes of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” thundered from the magnificent loudspeaker system , filling the entire Theater--the same notes that lyricist Tim Rice’s words matched perfectly with : “Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ ! Who are you? What have you sacrificed?” It was the first of a number of what I call “Cosmic Jokes” that I would encounter throughout my life.
I turned to see if anyone else at the table was hearing what I was hearing in a theater in Jerusalem , in 1973 CE , almost 2,000 years after the event that had occurred in this very city, made its mark on history as few others , and had since caused wars to be fought and religions to be wrought, and that Webber and Rice had recently “resurrected” musically. Had anyone else gotten “the joke”? Apparently no else had. So I never said a word. I continued listening to the rest of the song, eating my delicious Hummus Salad, and internally logging the observation that absurdities abound everywhere and constantly, in our lives. One just has to look... and listen... carefully, to perceive them and, at times, even laugh at them.