Life Lessons with Judy Simon
Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
In the beginning, the Jewish world scorned Rambam’s opus work of halachah, the “Mishna Torah.” Rabbi Nachman’s writings were banned. The same with the Ramchal, author of the now famous “Mesillat Yesharim.” The Haredi world tried to uphold publication of “Eim HaBanim Semeichah,” written in the midst of the Holocaust, proving beyond a shadow of question the obligation of living in Eretz Yisrael.
So I am under no illusions. My books speak about the things that truly matter, things that many readers would rather avoid. Nonetheless, the people who read my books truly enjoy them. Translations of my novels into Hebrew have found a appreciative audience, especially among young people who are hungry for true Jewish substance. Several of them have been adapted into high-school plays.
“The Discman and the Guru” is a perfect example. The novel tells the story of Sam Singer, a sensitive teenager from a super wealthy, broken, LA family, who can’t relate to the crass material world around him. Setting off on his own, he journeys around the world to find G-d and the TRUTH. After escapades in London, Paris, Rome, India, and Mecca, he arrives in Jerusalem, where he is arrested several times for trying to pray on the Temple Mount. Warned by Israeli police that he will be thrown out of the country if he tries once again, he undauntedly sets off at night to scale the towering southern wall. But a climbing mishap occurs, and he is left dangling in mid air, high up on the wall, when an Arab street-cleaner spots him, and spreads the alarm that a settler is trying to blow up the Temple Mount mosques.
Here’s an excerpt from the novel, told by Sam himself:
As I said, what happened from that point on became history. The streetcleaner alerted an Arab family who lived across from the Old City wall. The man of the house telephoned a PLO connection, who in turn awakened the Wakf. Within minutes, the loudspeakers in muzzeins throughout East Jerusalem were announcing the “Israeli assault” on the mosque. In the name of the Mufti, Arabs were to congregate on the Temple Mount to repel the Zionist invasion. In the meantime, the streetcleaner had run to the Israeli police station by the Kotel. While loudspeakers in Jerusalem's mosques were calling for jihad, hysterical sirens sounded all over the city. Israeli police cars and army jeeps raced to the scene. Buses speeded Israeli paratroopers to the sight. Searchlights were focused on my way. Sniper rifles were aimed at my back.
I heard all the raucous, but I didn't dare look down. I pressed my body against the metal lattice and prayed. When Yosi described the scene later, he made it sound like an action-packed movie. Down below, Arabs filled the street. Police formed a human barricade, pushing them back. Police horses galloped to the scene like a well-rehearsed cavalry charge. Police and TV helicopters roared over the Old City. Suddenly, a great light beamed down on me from out of the sky as if all of heaven were watching. Thanks to CNN, the unfolding drama was broadcast live to all of the world.
Up on the Temple Mount, Moslems hurrying to defend the el Aksa Mosque charged the Israeli police station, trapping the outnumbered policemen inside. Israeli soldiers arrived on the scene in full battle gear. Temple-Mount Commander Aharoni shouted orders to the troops of Border Police that were bussed in to quell the growing riot. Out on the street, soldiers were firing gas cannisters at the mobs of Arabs who had come up from Silwan to throw stones. Sipping on a hot cup of coffee, Gibson climbed sleepily out of his car and trudged over to the sidewalk where the army commander on duty was arguing with a police captain. Gibson later told me that the commander wanted to let one of his sharpshooters take me down from the wall.
“Are you crazy?” the captain argued. “He may be wired with explosives.”
Detective Gibson reached over and borrowed a pair of binoculars from an officer standing nearby. Adjusting the lenses, he focused in on the wall.
“Singer,” he said. “It's Singer.”
The army commander looked over.
“You know him?” he asked.
“Call off the snipers,” Gibson barked. “It's just a mixed-up kid from the States.”
A soldier in the archeological garden held up his hand and gave out a call. Keeping a safe distance away from the wall, he signalled for the boys from the bomb squad. Other soldiers formed a radius around the area, clearing the site. Sirens blared as cars carrying the Minister of Police and the Mayor of Jerusalem arrived at the scene. Though dawn was still several hours away, the area looked just like rush hour. Crowds were streaming down the hill from the Old City. Among the bystanders was Rabbi Dov Ber HaCohen, the Tzaddik of the Kotel. He had been in the middle of his nightly midnight prayer when the news came that a Jew was trying to scale the southern wall of the Mount. Staring up at me as I clung to the lattice high up on the wall, the Rabbi recited a verse from King David's Psalms.
“For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones and cherish her very dust.”
Not far away, Ariel Tzur was being interviewed by a CNN News crew against the background of the brightly lit wall. Other film crews hurried over to get the passionate settler on tape.
“He wants to pray on the site of the Temple, that's all,” Tzur explained in his Biblical English, as camera lights flashed in his face. “Isn't it absurd that in Jerusalem a Jew can't pray where Kings David and Solomon, and all the great Jewish prophets prayed in the past?”
“The site is also holy to the Moslems,” the TV reporter challenged.
“If a thief steals your house, who does the house belong to?” Tzur asked in response. “To the thief or to the original owner? Let the Moslems pray in Mecca. The Temple Mount belongs to the Jews.”
“Even if it means jihad?” the reporter shot back.
“Of course. By all means. Let there be war. If the Russians demanded control of New York, wouldn't every American be ready to fight?”
“That's true,” President Bill Boston said. “The man has a point.”
He was watching the special live report from Jerusalem in the Oval Office, while waiting for the nightly CNN Election Report to begin.
The on-the-scene reporter turned away from Tzur and stood facing camera with the tiny figure of you-know-who in the background. “Police sources say that the mysterious Spiderman climbing the Temple Mount wall is an American tourist, Sam Singer, from Beverly Hills, California.”
“Sam Singer,” the President exclaimed as the camera zoomed in on a close-up of me on the wall. “Well I'll be a hog in shit. I know that boy. That's Ralph Singer's son. Get me Ralph on the phone this minute!”
Back in Jerusalem, flashing his I.D., Gibson had made his way past the soldiers blocking the entrance to the archeological garden. Carrying a bullhorn in his hand, he headed up the stone stairway toward the wall. Before he reached the top step, a barrage of stones flew down like hailstones from the Temple Mount. Inside the yard, Arabs were throwing bricks and rocks over the wall at the Israelis below. Soldiers fired tear gas over the wall in retaliation, hoping to drive the rioters away. Smoke filled the air. Helicopters roared overhead, searchlights flashing. Throughout the Moslem sections of the city, mosque loudspeakers continued to cry out, “Slaughter the Jews!”
“Singer, come down!” Gibson called out through the bullhorn.
I recognized the voice of the laid-back policeman.
“I can't!” I yelled back, my eyes burning from the smoke of the tear gas.
“You got up there!” Gibson yelled.
“I hurt my knee,” I called back.
It was true. My knee had twisted when I had latched onto the metal lattice guarding the window high up on the mosque.
“Try!” Gibson urged.
I pulled out a foot from one of the lattice holes and searched for the hole down below. Slowly, I lowered myself down a rung, but a pain shot through my knee, making me shudder.
“I can't,” I called down.
Another rainstorm of rocks showered down on the archeological park, as if fired out of catapults on the Mount.
“Umph,” Gibson groaned as a brick smashed into his back. The blow knocked him down to the ground. Quickly, he stumbled down the stone steps, out of range of the homemade missiles.
The eyes of the Mayor and the Minister of Police looked frantic. A decision had to be made. The bomb squad couldn't search the site under the barrage of rocks flying down from the wall. On the Mount, the police station had been torched and policemen were trapped inside. Normally, in a situation like this, the Prime Minister would make the decision to send troops into the Mount or not, but the leader of the country was away on an economic mission in Japan. The Minister of Defense was next in line, but in the crazy world of Israeli politics, the Prime Minister had kept that portfolio for himself. And the Minister of Police was a former lawyer who had never held an army command in his life.
So it was the jumpy Aharoni who made the decision. Dutifully, he had waited for directions from the political echelon, but hearing that his men were trapped in the burning police station, he ordered the troops at the Temple Mount gate to prepare for attack. When orders didn't come from the powers that be, he gave the command to charge. A hundred of Israel's toughest paratroopers stormed through the archway. A mob of rioting Arabs were waiting to greet them with lethal volleys of automatic fire. Firing rubber bullets, the Israelis forced a retreat. In the first blast of fire, eight Arabs were wounded. More gas cannisters exploded, turning the Temple Mount into a battleground of fire and smoke. While the riot unit chased after the stone throwers, a commando team charged the police station to free the Israelis inside. Firing live ammunition, they smashed through a throng of screaming Arabs, who fled to the other side of the courtyard. Six Arabs were killed, a dozen wounded. Within minutes, the wail of ambulance sirens filled the Old City.
Aharoni raised the face guard of his riot helmet. “Sterilize the Mount!” he yelled out to his officers as the Arabs regrouped and charged at the Israeli soldiers. A fierce round of fire drove them back across the yard.
“Clear the Mount! Clear the Mount!” soldiers called out through bullhorns.
While Jerusalem was waking up to the sound of ambulances, across the ocean, my father sat at the edge of a chair in front of a giant, wall_size television screen in his Beverly Hills office.
“Ralph, you’re not going to believe this. Turn on CNN News right away,” the President had told him over the phone.
A helicopter flying over the Old City of Jerusalem filmed the burning battlefield below. Ambulances rushed the wounded to hospitals. And there, stuck to the Temple Mount wall like a fly, was Ralph Singer's youngest son, Sam.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed, standing up from his chair.
“From the information we have at this time,” the CNN reporter explained, “the Jewish zealot is unarmed. Yesterday, the eighteen-year-old American from Beverly Hills, California, was arrested twice for trying to pray on the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Moslems and Jews.”
When the camera zoomed in to a close-up of the “zealot” who was causing the riot, my Dad must have flipped. It was me, all right, bald and bandaged, but me all the same, looking tired and frightened as I clung to the window lattice, seventy feet off the ground.
“Hold on,” my father called out, as if I could hear him, thousands of miles away.
My older brother, Wayne, hurried into the office. He stared open_mouth at the screen.
“Is that Sam?” he asked.
My father nodded.
“Where is he?”
“How the hell did he get himself up there?” Wayne wanted to know, sitting down on a couch to watch the mind-boggling footage.
The live CNN broadcast switched to an Arab in charge of Jerusalem affairs for the Palestinian Authority.
“This new Israeli attack on the Temple Mount will bring the whole Middle East to war against the Zionists,” he warned. “This time, we will reclaim all of our land.”
“Get me the President on the phone!” Ralph Singer barked in confusion.
“He's still on the line,” Wayne answered.
My worried father reached over to the coffee table and lifted the receiver.
“Bill? Are you still there?” he asked.
“One second, Mr. Singer,” an aide responded. “The President is speaking to the Israelis right now.”
My father kept his eyes glued to the giant Sony screen. Hovering over the roof of the mosque, a rescue helicopter carefully moved into place, swinging a rope ladder my way.
“Since when did your boy become such a snappler?” the President quipped, coming back on the line.
“I don't want anything to happen to him, Bill,” my father replied with concern.
“I just spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister in Tokyo. We'll get the boy out of there, don't worry. And I called Arafat and warned him to call off his jihad.”
“Why the hell did they arrest him for praying?” my father said angrily as he watched me reach out for the rope.
“It's a powder keg up there,” the President answered, eyes glued to the Oval Office TV.
“What kind of Jewish country is it?” Ralph Singer barked. “You're the President of the United States. Don't Americans have rights?”
“My State Department people are working on the proper response. This is a sticky matter. We've got an election coming up, remember? Get me a couple million dollars for ads in all the papers explaining whatever position we take. I'll call you back later.”
The President hung up the phone. My father, and hundreds of millions of viewers all over the world, watched as I grabbed ahold of the rope ladder. One hand, then the other. When I had a firm grasp on the rescue device, the hydrolic lift in the helicopter began to raise me up through the air. Clouds of smoke billowed up over the Temple Mount. The shooting had stopped, but the sound of ambulances could still be heard in the distance. I dangled on the rope ladder as the aircraft hovered safely away from the silver dome of the mosque. To tell you the truth, I was glad the whole thing was over. Hands reached down from the door of the helicopter, and soldiers lifted me aboard.
On the other side of the world, my father fell back exhaustedly into his chair.
“Thank G-d,” he said with a sigh of relief.
“He's crazy,” Wayne said. “Absolutely, certifiably nuts.”
The news broadcast returned to the regular Nightly Election Report. For the moment, the Temple Mount drama was over.
"The Discman and the Guru" can be obtained online at: