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The Initial Appearance of Yishmael

by Yitzhak (Isaac) Hy


     These were the days around the 1973 "Day of Atonement War", and my life - which till then was the life of a workoholic career man - started taking a turn. I lived then in Jerusalem, which later would become a symbol for me, and started writing down my dreams.

     In my dreams I arrived again and again to a certain place which I called "The Mediteranean Town". With each dream I approached this town from another side, But it was always the very same town, situated on a slope of mountain descending to the sea, densely packed with houses. These dreams gave a feeling of nearing an exhilarating revelation, but the dream never reached its conclusion. I thus assumed that it expresses a wish for a pleasant vacation abroad, and decided to accept an official invitation I had received, and to fly to Brazil.

     At the last moment I almost canceled the journey to Brazil, after I heard about the death of T's boyfriend in the war. She left me for him, and I have not recovered from the pain yet. "Now is the time to turn her heart back to me", I thought, and sought for a way to offer her my heart and support. Thus I met her again at the Carmel Beach, in fact the place were I had first met her, and which was for me a place of ritual: I would come there on every opportunity and swim far towards the horizon, until I would feel myself merging fully with the sea and opening up like the sea. So I met her at that same beach, and there and then she told me to leave her alone.

     As I walked away from her, the world started to change rapidly. The sky became dark, even though there was no trace of clouds in it, and the sand under my feet, or was it my feet, felt different. My body seemed to lengthen, like the body of Alice in Wonderland, until I became a giant stepping from the land to the sea. With each step I felt as if I was treading upon whole cities. Then I set opposite the water, and a seagull came and circled over me. And suddenly I was hovering up there seeing the beach from the seagull's eye, and below, on the beach, I saw my body sitting, like a sculptor left by its maker.

     The enchantment lasted for a few moments, until I came to and hurriedly left the place. On the way - driving up the mountain - I felt a need to stop and look back, to the sun setting in the sea. Now there were clouds, and they were burning in flames that seemed to rise to heaven, and in the sea there formed a blood-red trail leading West and calling me. Something snapped, and I knew there was nothing left for me to do but to take this trail.

     Since there were no direct flights to Brazil, I decided to change through London and meanwhile visit Gordon, the most remarkable person I knew there. {I did not yet know then that in the years to come he would be my mentor and would supply me with the model for the old magician Logi-Loony, and that the learning machines which he was making will occupy my imagination, and will breed the MECCA-HEJERA concept.} He received me in stage-magician clothes, and the glimmer in his huge eyes reminded me of the children's story about the Tinder Box guarded by a dog with eyes "big as saucers". We drank tea from a fanciful china set and ate the remnants of a decorated Christmas cake, and then went down to the cellar to look at his novel learning machines. I returned to the airplane carrying a seed of something, I later realized was the Tree of Knowledge.

     That night, in the belly of the flying whale, I first crossed the equator, and I felt as if pushed to be reborn in a new world, and that all the fifty passengers traveling with me are secret partners to me. Unconscious partners, whose lifelines got somehow bent so to allow me to make this fateful journey, to the imaginary land of Brazil - the land of the amber-color-hearted timber, perhaps the land from which the first Adam was expelled.
     In the morning, when I left Rio airport, Brazil received me with all its tropical warmth and animation. The days were just before the carnival, and I found the time, beside my professional duties, to take part in the training sessions in a samba school.

     Rio was beautiful and smiling. Smiling through the faces of the local beauties. And I smiled at Rio by smiling back at them, since I anyway hardly knew the language of the land. The very limits on my vocabulary forced me stay close to the people, because we had to rely on body language. And through body language I came to fall in love with the sound of the sensual language of the Brazilians, and the sensuality of the language brought me to fall in love with all the natives. But it was not only the language which I found sensual - it was the whole way of life, the warmth, the sun, the sea, the dances - everything was taking place as a part of the exhilarating beauty of a city a hundredfold more beautiful than my native Haifa. And nevertheless - something was lacking in Rio, something of the things which had enchanted me in Haifa and more so in San Francisco, where in the my first visit there I experienced heavenly beauty by looking around. Perhaps Rio was too "earthly"? In any case, in order to come to the city of my dreams I had to travel farther.

     So for the carnival itself I traveled farther to the city of Salvador in Bahia, about a thousand miles north of Rio. And there, by the city center, near the main street - where the carnival was taking place - I realized with amazement that I have arrived at that "Mediteranean Town" which I had frequented in my dreams. Salvador de Bahia is an ancient city, built in the traditional Portuguese style: like Mediteranean towns it is built densely on slopes going to the bay. The name I gave it was wrong, but the vision was extremely precise.

     From my dreams I had known only the small streets. But the great event was focused at the main street. A street turned through the carnival into a raging river where a human mass flows and jumps, body touching body, and they all dance by the beat of the samba for several miles solid. And inside this pulsating river of gyrating and vibrating human bodies there passed - driving to and fro - the truck of the "Trio Electrico", a trio of electric guitars with huge amplifiers, and everywhere they passed, their strumming sounds pierced through the mass, and the thousands of people around them would jump and jump in the air.

     And I too, I danced there in Bahia. For two days and three nights I danced and danced. I rowed and danced through the river of living bodies. My body rubbed against countless bodies and the body feeling was stronger than ever.

     And then strange things started to happen. From somewhere there arose suddenly Elton John's song "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and penetrated right into me. And I said with it - "Yes, goodbye to the childhood stories about yellow bricks or what. I must go beyond, to where my future lies". And I soaked in the the sensation of the flesh crowding around me, and I felt myself a part of any man, of all mankind.

     It was after three continuous days of the carnival. People were bending and falling under, like fruits rotting and decaying in the market, and people were lying as thrown upon the pavements and the streets. I saw the human flesh decaying, the weakness spreading. I was a part of it and I felt how my own body too was disintegrating, and I felt Death accompanying me, standing behind my shoulder, and I knew it was coming. Death ruled everything, and even I was not immune from it - and I knew it for the first time in my life. Suddenly I understood that up to then I was immune - or felt myself immune - from death. As if I was not a part of this world. Up to that moment I felt as if I were a being from another planet, who merely had to make an emergency landing, completely contingent, here, upon earth. That was why I always strove for perfection, and that was why I endeavored to create immortal creations, which will stand for centuries, appreciated only by later generations. But no longer - Now I knew that death is approaching, and if I shall not open my mouth now and communicate with the people - there will be no afterwards.

     In this way I became acquainted with the possibility of my death - and in a strange way this constituted for me a tremendous release and liberation. I let myself drop out of the professional and pragmatic world in which I lived. I moved to a fishermen's village not far from the city, and made attention into my chief pursuit. I would sit for even whole hours watching plants and insects, completely enthralled. As an Operations Researcher I realized with amazement that all the planning and operations resources of of the great multinational corporations will not suffice to manage the growth of a one small plant, even if they would apply the latest rationalized and computerized planning, reporting and decision-making systems which were my professional pride.

     I was also an architect, one who till then saw the earth as but an infrastructure, a container for human creations. But now I knew: she is a living body, which a proper architecture can embellish in adornments, but which can also be incarcerated by urban development. I listened to the earth, and documented our meetings. And as I opened completely - and wrote with great urge everything that came up my mind - I noticed that the quality and character of my writings varied, apparently in some relation to the place where they were written. And it crossed my mind that the character of the places were I wrote was also different in some covert ways. And as I was getting deeper into investigating her, the earth was letting me into her secrets, and was signalling that the time has come to travel and tour the land. So I traveled to her length and breadth, and I was soaking in three colors: red green and black, colors which apparently lacked in the blue-and-white consciousness of my childhood. Red is the color of the Brazilian soil, green is the vegetation which springs from this soil and covers all, whereas the black - the black is found in the very interior, the heart of the country, in the city of the black gold - Auro Preto, the city of churches.

     (From the journal I used to fill then: ".... and thus the red took the stage, and left no room on the page for any other word, for any different color. Everything was consumed by the red fire. And all that was left for me was to meditate wherefrom have I acquired so much objection to red...".

     It was when I turned my face from the sea to the interior and changed my course to the depth of the land that I got to Auro Preto. This is what was done before by the people who had pioneered and built this jewel, in the wake of the gold-rush.

     (From the journal: "...I know Brazil better than they do, because Brazil is within me. But I do not know her yet. I seem to have met her only once so far, when I turned into the interior, instead of going down to the beach... I went up the unpaved road of a little village, with small houses on each side. In an eery house there were families with skins of all the hues of brown. In almost each garden there were banana trees and coconut palms, and flowers of strong colors, within which there were beautiful insects, and much life within life".)

     Through the course of contemplations, the earth started posing to me questions which later were posed to me as a city-and-regional planning consultant: what will be the proper pattern for settling additional scores of millions of Brazilians. How will they continue to feel the connection to the living earth. What is the connection between the forms of human habitations and the ways people feel, think and act.

     When I realized that mere contemplation will not suffice to provide me with answers to the new questions which were occupying me, I decided to look for people and books who purport to deal with them. Through these searches I became acquainted with a strange and different book - a book of an Englishman called John Michell, named "The View Over Atlantis". The book included reports about people who underwent experiences similar to those which I had recently undergone. It also included chapters about monuments from all parts of the world which apparently testify about an ancient common global civilization. The considerations which guided the ancients in the selection of sites for their structures - I figured - were totally different from the considerations which are taught in modern schools of architecture. The only civilization which employed similar principles, almost till current times, was the traditional Chinese one, whose builders knew to take into account invisible "tiger lines" and "dragon lines".

     But precisely where my curiosity was aroused and it seemed that I was about to find the answers to the questions about the hidden influences of the earth upon the soul - the author made a sudden unexpected turn, and discussed the principles of sacred geometry, according to the conceptions of Plato and other mystics and in ancient temples. And all these discussions led to the study of the measures of the New Jerusalem - which is called in Hebrew the Heavenly Jerusalem - according to the Revelation of John in the New Testament. It was in the New Jerusalem that John Michell saw the quintessence of all those revelations and their purpose.

     I have grown up in Israel, studied in its best schools and was educated as a Zionist - but I have never even heard of the concept of the Heavenly Jerusalem before.

     Therefore my wonder rose still further one day, when my kind host in Northeastern Brazil, who wanted to please me, invited me to a day tour to the desert in the interior of the state. Since I had never discussed with him the theories of "The View Over Atlantis", I was amazed when he told me in the course of the journey that we were approaching Nova Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem.

     We reached a wide desert plain, far from any habitation, where there stood stone city-walls. entering the gate we found ourselves in a ghost town all made from arenas and amphitheaters, each with fixed stage settings depicting some aspect of Jerusalem, as envisioned by local naive artists. It turned out that this "New Jerusalem" is inhabited only a few days each year, when myriads of pilgrims gather there to watch Passion Plays. On all other days of the years, this is a ghost town. In this way I was proded by the land of Brazil to recognize the possibility for the existence of the Heavenly Jerusalem and to start to relate to her.

     (From the journal: "I have discovered the City of Gold, more enchanted even from the enchanted city of Safed which rises from Ein Te'ena. Once I was brought unwillingly to Safed and left there in tears, involved with memories. But in the city of the black gold - I write poetry. My Lord, if this is the hidden gold, what is the Golden Jerusalem which covers the Holy City, the Heavenly Jerusalem?".)

     I opened my story with the sea - and that is where I shall end it. It was by the sea that I was born and grew up, and it was in the sea that the following was revealed to me.

     The greater part of my stay in Brazil was spent in Recife, the capital of Northwest Brazil which is situated by the Atlantic coast. By special providence I found there precisely the dream apartment by the beach which I envisioned, and I would rise early each morning to swim in the ocean and welcome there the rising sun. It took me several weeks to realize that I was the only person in the city who swims in the ocean. Recife had a million and a half inhabitants, all of them love the beach and spend long hours by it and at times even wade in the shallow water. But no one enters the ocean deeply for a real swim. It looked strange, but did not deter me from my habit. Not until that morning.

     That morning I went, as I was used to, and swam towards the rising sun, and about six hundred yards from the shore - I realized I was not alone there. Facing me I saw a triangular fin, one of those famous from the movie "Jaws". And when the fin went in, there rose up - about five yards ahead of it - the snout. A giant shark was swimming near me, about twenty yards away. I looked at it - and tremendous fear, the fear of death, filled my heart. I swam away from there in almost total stillness, in order not to raise waves or its attention. I swam as if I was in a slow motion horror film, afraid to turn back my head towards where death was swimming quietly. Then the last hundred yards I covered in record speed, and I arrived to the shore with my heart pounding violently.

     But in the next day I did not change my daily habit, and returned to welcome the sun swimming. Again I swam deep into the ocean, to the very same spot where the day before I met the fear of death. There was no shark there, but something else happened. A terrible sadness took possession of me. A terrible sadness surrounded me. I suddenly remembered the boy who was killed in the war, the competitor - the one that till then I thought about him only as my rival, whom I never bothered to relate to but as the one who stole my love away. The one I was training in Karate in order to tear him to shreds! And then the tears were streaming from my eyes and mixed with the water of the ocean. I felt forcefully about the terrible waste which war is and about those who are killed in it. My heart ached. A great real physical pain, and my tears added a little salt to the ocean. This time I returned slowly from the whole swim, and I sat in my room to meditate. And then started sounding in my brain, within me, a single word. I knew not where it came from, chiming like a bell: Yishmael, Yishmael, Yismael....

     Yes, my name is Yitshak (Isaac), and I know the Biblical myth, about the relationship of Yitshak and Yishmael (Ishmael). Yishmael is the Other, the outcast and rejected brother, the rival on the inheritance and the land. And Yishmael, for the Israeli that I am, is the archetype of the Moslem Arab.

     And since that day he accompanies me, my brother Yishmael. And I - I no longer turn my back to him. To the Other, to the Arab, the Moslem. True, I am not always attentive to him, since I live among my people. But he acts as my catalyst. He calls upon me to conceive new idea, to pose novel solutions, different and original ones, for the problem of our inheritance.

     I brought up Yishmael's name first when I proposed to turn the whole Land of Israel into "The Yishmael Federation", a treaty of twelve canton--tribes. Later I turned the Hebrew name "Yishma-el" to the acronym of the Yerushalayim Shel Ma'ala Agency (which I called in English "the HEJERA", from The Heavenly Jerusalem Association) with which I was getting so involved, and according to this I eventually proposed the flying saucer of the HEJERA-Yishmael - Yerushalayim Shel Ma'al Electronit (the Electronic Heavenly Jerusalem Agency) - which formed the core for a futuristic design for the Temple of Jerusalem. Because the very name Yerushalayim-Jerusalem, means literally, "twain inheritance". And who are the twain-inheritors of Jerusalem if not the sons of Isaac and of Ishmael together? Or in fact every two human groups who knew a bitter and lasting feud whose solution seems currently as beyond human understanding?

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