Life & Culture

A spoonful of Uri: Inside Tel Aviv's newest magical museum

Uri Geller has created a new shrine to his mystical powers


Portrait of Israeli-British illusionist, magician, television personality, and self-proclaimed psychic, Uri Geller, at his Museum in Jaffa, Israel, on January 9, 2019. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** אורי גלר מוזיאון יפו קוסם אמן חושים גלרייה

Visiting a museum entirely dedicated to Uri Geller, created by Uri Geller, and presented through a live guided tour by Uri Geller, had never been on my to-do list. During your brief holiday visit to Israel, you also may not have considered this possibility. If not, you should definitely reconsider, because this is the weirdest and most unusually engaging exhibition you’re likely to see in Israel.

When Uri invited me for a chat and a private tour of his shrine to all things mystical, supernatural and paranormal, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Getting out of my taxi in Jaffa I found myself confronted with a 15-metre-long ‘bent’ steel spoon sculpture immediately outside his museum, which is housed in a beautifully renovated Ottoman-era soap factory.

Uri bounded out to meet me, pointing out the massive spoon, in case I’d missed it. “Under the spoon, I have a huge bronze plaque,” he explained, “in which I put Albert Einstein’s spoon, the Torah, the ten commandments, the Quran, the Hindi scripts. Everything is there! And there is a message that if you touch the palms of my hands, my hands are on the plaque, it’ll bring you positive energy.”

We’re not even inside the museum and Uri is in full flow. He’s 76 years old but with the energy and vitality of a teenager who forgot to take his Ritalin.

Inside he shows me a giant rock. “This is 3,200 years old. It’s the gemstone of Ramses the Second, the Pharaoh, and this was in the museum of Israel Antiquities Authority,” he says.

Darting around the museum with unbridled enthusiasm, it is as if he has never told anyone his stories before. Of course, he has, possibly thousands of times, but they all feel fresh, exciting, and also a bit bonkers.

It turns out the museum isn’t really all about him, but instead it houses his own personal, highly idiosyncratic collection of knick-knacks, souvenirs and memorabilia from a career in entertainment which has spanned decades and continents. It’s actually a palace of pop culture, with an eccentric display of thousands of fascinating and weird artefacts, each somehow connected to, or sometimes just collected by, Uri Geller.

There’s the massive golden scale model of a Libyan Airlines jet which Uri tells me Ghadaffi sent him personally after they met. Or Princess Diana’s rug from Kensington Palace. Or a sliced section of his first ever car mounted on the wall. There’s a Cadillac covered in bent spoons he twisted for various celebrities; a miniature replica of the Stone of Scone and the British monarch’s coronation throne; a football signed by Messi; a gold football signed by Ronaldo; every single hotel key he has ever had from his many extensive trips around the world. The list goes on and on.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t steal them,” he says of the hotel keys. “I swapped every single one for a signed, bent spoon.” I ask how many restaurant bills he’s paid over the years in the same way, but he won’t say.

After I leave, Uri sends me a video by WhatsApp from his “dungeons” of all the things we didn’t get a chance to see, including every mobile phone he’s ever owned, Albert Einstein’s pipes, CIA stuff, Mossad stuff: “Hoarder, hoarder” he exclaims, as the list goes on.

But Uri is more than a hoarder. He’s a collector, a curator, a cataloguer. And above all else, he’s a fabulous raconteur. The man has a ten-minute story about every single item in his museum of peculiarities and mementos. Each story is strangely compelling, magical and engaging. Even the most sceptical visitors will warm to him and end up liking him.

Before I leave, he shows me a golden blob shaped like the toy capsule you get in a Kinder Surprise. “This is an unbelievable story,” he starts. But that won’t stop him.

“John Lennon and I were very close friends. He lived in the Dakota building in New York. And I lived in 57th Street and First Avenue… One night John calls me up in the middle of the night. ‘Uri! You’ve got to come quickly. Something happened to me.’ I said ‘John, it’s three o’clock in the morning.’ ‘No, no, no. You’ve got to come.’ I heard in his voice that he went through a trauma. So I said ‘okay, John, let’s meet halfway in a hotel.’”

“I walk into the lobby of the hotel. John is standing in the corner. He is white, and he’s shaking. I said ‘John, what happened?’ He puts his left hand in his pocket and he pulls out the thing. I said, ‘John, what is this?’ He hands it to me. I swear to you, my hand goes down, it’s so heavy. ‘John, what is this?’ This is what John tells me. ‘Uri, I’m lying in my bed in the Dakota building. Suddenly, a sphere of light appears right next to the bed, and out of the sphere of light and an alien hand, an extra-terrestrial hand, stretches out, and I get this into the palm of my hand.’ I mean, you know, my first question was: what did you smoke? Or what were you on? But John swore to me that this actually happened.”

Why doesn’t Uri get the ‘thing’ tested in a lab, you might wonder. “Because I don’t want to be disappointed that it’s made in China. I want to believe in John Lennon’s words.”

Uri’s renovated soap factory isn’t a museum at all, it’s a theatre, and he’s the entire show. Everything else is but a prop. Despite his massive success as an entertainer, many have struggled to describe what he does in one word — is he a psychic, a mystifier, a paranormalist? He may be any or all of these, but above all else, I tell him, he’s a storyteller. “That’s it!” he exclaims, with enthusiasm.

If some of his stories sound a bit far-fetched, exaggerated, or even unbelievable, it doesn’t really matter. Uri swore to me that this all actually happened, and I want to believe in Uri Geller’s words. Who cares if it’s made in China?

If you’re looking for something new to try in Tel Aviv, it’s worth a visit. Because trust me, you’ve never been to a show like this before.

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