Here's the fun and exciting continuation of yesterday's excerpt from "The Discman and the Guru." After Sam's quest to pray on the Temple Mount triggers a new Intifada, and the eyes of the world are once again focused on Jerusalem, Israeli police rush the American teenager to the Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital at the other end of the city.
The novel is available online here, or with some of my other books, at Amazon Books.
Once again, let's have Sam tell his story:
THAT MORNING, Arab riots erupted on highways near Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hevron, and throughout the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Arabs mobbed Israeli Army outposts. At an outpost near Shechem, two Israeli soldiers were killed. In the city of Hevron, wild mobs attacked the Jewish quarter, firing rifles that the Israeli government had given to the Palestinian Police. Yasir Arafat claimed that he was trying to quell the disturbance, but his soldiers stood by and watched as the mobs filled the streets. Palestinian policemen even joined in the shooting. By eleven o'clock in the morning, dozens of Arabs had been killed and wounded, and five Israelis were dead.
"I was only trying to get close to G-d."
Of course, I only heard about all this later. Handcuffed and surrounded by soldiers, I was brought to the top security ward of a psychiatric hospital in Jerusalem, where I was placed under round-the-clock guard. Longtime patients gathered in the corridor of the general ward to see the new inmate. Some were dressed in street clothes, others wore hospital robes, while others still wore their pajamas.
“Greetings good friend!” one called out in perfectly clear English. “I'm the Messiah.”
“Don't listen to anything he tells you,” another patient shouted. “He's crazy. I'm the real Messiah.”
A squadron of soldiers stood all around me, waiting for the hospital authorities to direct them to a room.
“They're both nuts,” a man with a bushy beard and burning eyes called over from the doorway of the ward.
“Shut up, Moses,” another called out, giving Moses a shove.
I was surprised that they all spoke in English. I wondered if they too had been tourists like me. A patient in pajamas and slippers slid over my way. “Who are you, fellah?” he asked.
“Sam Singer,” I answered. “My father is one of the wealthiest men in the world. He'll get me out of here soon.”
The patient turned toward his buddies. “His father is one of the wealthiest men in the world,” he told them.
For some reason, everyone laughed.
“My father is wealthier than your father,” a patient shouted.
“My father is wealthier than everybody's father put together,” another one claimed.
Soon all the patients were arguing. A white-jacketed attendant hurried over and started pushing the crowd back into their ward. I was herded into a doctor's office and shoved into a chair. During the interview, a few high-ranking cops and government officials ease dropped in the back of the room. A uniformed soldier wearing a red beret and a chestful of medals stood at attention. The psychiatrist wore a knitted kippah and glasses. He had a neatly trimmed beard.
“How did you get that head wound?” was the first question he asked.
“The other day, I went up to the Temple Mount and started to sing,” I replied. “When the police dragged me away, the commander, Aharoni, smashed my head against a wall.”
The doctor glanced over to the Minister of Police who was listening by the door.
“I see,” the psychiatrist said. “Did a doctor take a look at it?”
“No. A medic bandaged it, that's all.”
“Well, we'll have a doctor take a look at it soon. Does it hurt?”
“Not anymore,” I said, turning around to take in the small audience behind me.
“I'd like to ask you some questions, do you mind?” the shrink inquired politely.
“No,” I answered. “Go ahead.”
“What were you doing climbing the wall?”
“I wanted to get inside the Temple Mount.”
“To be close to G-d.”
“Why didn't you wait for the morning?”
I thought about the question and shrugged. “I didn't feel like waiting, that's all.”
The psychiatrist nodded.
“The morning before when I went up there, I wasn't even praying. The police arrested me when I started to sing with some tourists. I was the only person arrested – apparently because I'm a Jew. Let me ask you, Doctor, does that make sense to you?”
“Whether it makes sense to me or not, that is the law. Do you understand what you've caused?”
“I'm sorry if someone was hurt. If this was really a democracy, it wouldn't have happened. In a democracy, people have rights. If an Arab can pray on the Mount, why can't a Jew?”
The psychiatrist didn't have an answer. For a moment, he glanced up at his distinguished audience, which included the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army.
“Tell me,” the doctor inquired. “Have you ever been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons before?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “As a kid.”
“Is that so?” the psychiatrist asked with interest.
“A few times.”
“My parents thought I was weird.”
The psychiatrist kept nodding his head as if it were attached to a spring.
“Weird in what way?”
“I used to pray to G-d in my closet.”
“And your parents didn't approve?”
“They wanted me to be normal, whatever that is.”
“Did you take medication?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “A lot.”
“Do you remember what kind?”
“Halydol, Prozac, Thorazine, Ritilin, and five or six anti_depressants.”
“You were depressed?”
“Not at the beginning, but I sure was after the psychiatrists got through with me.”
The doctor flinched as if he had been slapped in the face.
“Nothing personal, mind you,” I said. “I was just trying to answer your question.”
“Of course. Feel free to say what's on your mind.”
“It isn't easy with such a big audience,” I answered, glancing back at the crowd by the door. “Who are they all?”
“Doctors, policemen, government officials.”
“I want to see a lawyer,” I said. “And I want to talk to the United States Ambassador to Israel. I'm an American, and I know my rights. The Israeli government is persecuting me because I'm a Jew.”
“That's ridiculous!” the Minister of Police blurted out.
“Then how come an Arab can pray on the Temple Mount and I can't?”
“That's the law,” the flustered cabinet member shot back.
“That's discrimination,” I said.
“This isn't a trial,” the psychiatrist cut in. “I myself am not an expert in the law, but I'm sure the Israeli government has good reasons for enforcing its statutes. The police will want to ask you questions, and I'm sure they will let you speak to a lawyer, but right now, just tell me, are you taking any medication at this time?”
“No,” I answered. “Nothing at all. I haven't taken any of that poison for years. I learned to keep quiet and mind my own business, that's all.”
“Until last night,” Israel's top Army commander commented, striding out of the room.
A mob of journalists were waiting for him outside the entrance to the ward.
“No comment. No comment. No comment,” he repeated in answer to their barrage of rapid-fire questions.
More journalists and TV crews were waiting outside on the street, where a lively demonstration had formed. Most of the crowd were settlers and religious people from Jerusalem. Hastily-made placards read: “FREE SAM SINGER!” Another sign said: “JEWS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!” When the Chief of Staff strode out from the hospital, Ariel Tzur started yelling, “JEWS HAVE RIGHTS TOO! JEWS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!” Following his cue, the crowd started chanting, “JEWS HAVE RIGHTS TOO!”
When the psychiatrist finished talking to me, the Israeli Police took over. The psychiatrist closed the door of the room and walked over to the nurse's station to make a telephone call. While he was speaking, the saintly Tzaddik of the Kotel, Rabbi Dov Bear HaCohen, shuffled over my way in the slippers he wore over his arthritic, swollen feet. With his prayer gown, he might have passed for one of the patients in the ward, if not for the holy gleam that lit up his face. Though the police guards had been given orders not to let anyone into the ward, no policeman or soldier would dream of denying the revered rabbi entrance. In addition to his great devotion to Jerusalem, he was respected by everyone in the country for his selfless good deeds. Not a day passed when he didn't visit some hospital or prison to bring assistance and cheer to the sick and down-and-out.
“Shalom, Rabbi,” the psychiatrist said, putting the phone down to greet him.
“I want to see the Singer boy,” the venerable sage responded.
Once again, the inmates on the floor gathered at the door of the ward to see the revered figure. No one made any jokes. No one called out. They all stood in respectful silence.
“Right now, the police are interrogating him,” the psychiatrist answered.
“Why did they bring him here?” the rabbi wanted to know.
“He seems to have a history of mental disease.”
“If he is mental, then so am I,” the white-bearded, ninety-year-old tzaddik replied. “I want to pray on the Temple Mount too.”
“Of course, I understand, but there are political questions here that must be considered.”
“Nonsense,” the rabbi said, dismissing the doctor's rebuttal with a wave of the hand. “Halevai that every Jew had such a yearning to get close to G-d.”
The psychiatrist nodded.
“Until he is released, I'm staying with him. Lock me up too,” the rabbi exclaimed, holding out his hands, ready to be handcuffed.
The inmates cheered. The police guards looked as startled as the psychiatrist.
“This isn't a prison,” the doctor answered.
“Fine. Then I simply will wait in the ward with the others,” the old man insisted.
He shuffled closer to the doctor and whispered in his ear.
“Between me and you, it's the Jews who don't want to pray on the Temple Mount that need treatment, not the ones who do.”
Without further ado, the Tzaddik of the Kotel walked into the mental ward. As the cheering patients made way, the rabbi shuffled through the entrance and plumped himself down on a chair.
Outside on the street, hundreds of protesters had gathered to demand my release. Wrapped in a white and blue prayer shawl, the flamboyant Ariel Tzur stood on the roof of a van, shouting through a megaphone. Camera crews from all over the world filmed his passionate speech.
“What great crime did the Jew, Sam Singer, commit?” he shouted out in his theatrical English. “The crime of wanting to pray on the holiest site to the Jewish nation. Arabs pray there. Americans pray there. Japanese tourists pray there. But when a Jew prays there, he is arrested. Today, if Judah the Macabee were alive, he would be arrested by the Israeli Police! If King David were living, he would be thrown into an Israeli prison! If Rabbi Akiva were living, he would be labeled insane. We demand the immediate release of the prisoner of Zion, Sam Singer! Free the Prisoner of Zion, Sam Singer! Free Sam Singer! Free Sam Singer!”
The crowd joined in the chant. “Free Sam Singer! Free Sam Singer!”
Continent to continent, coast to coast, all across the globe, television viewers heard the cry to free Sam Singer.
Little did I know that I had become an international celebrity. More than that, I had become the symbol of a cause. Already, the photograph of Sam Singer clinging to the Temple Mount wall was being printed in every newspaper in the world. On the way to the press, Time Magazine yanked its cover-story on President Bill Boston for a picture of me instead. That week, my picture would grace the covers of Newsweek, People, US News and World Report, Sports Illustrated, Soldier of Fortune, and every important international weekly from Australia to Sweden. While the police were grilling me on the top floor of the mental hospital in Givat Shaul, my photograph was being printed on posters at a printing press down the street. One of Tzur's enterprising followers was even printing my picture on T-shirts with the caption, “If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem.” Not since Neil Armstrong's boot had stepped on the moon had a photograph received such worldwide attention.
I won't give away the ending. If you want to get a teenager thinking about Judaism and Israel, this book is the perfect gift. It should be required reading for every young person in the Diaspora!