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The Jerusalem Gig
Reuven and his guitar had travelled the roads of Europe in traditional
troubadour fashion during the days of his bohemian youth. Into rock rhythms and
love ballads he poured the totality of his soul in sentiment, satire, humour and
sheer volume release. He carried his music to bars, cafe-theatres and festivals.
His publicity was by word of mouth and the gigs helped to keep him solvent in
dry periods of fieldwork.
Ora was delighted to be accompanying him to Jerusalem not only for the music,
but also because of the symbolic poignancy of their travelling together to the
city of their mutual dream. He picked her up in the early evening and the little
red Fiat shot out of Tel-Aviv onto the Jerusalem highway.
They drove past Sha’ar Hagai and began climbing into the winding approach hills
of Jerusalem. Soon, the outlying suburbs came into view, darkly silhouetted
against the dying sunset. Reuven pointed across the valley to their left.
“Look. Can you see a minaret over on the ridge?”
“Aha, just about.”
“That’s Nebi Samwill. It’s the highest point in the whole Jerusalem area. The
view from the top of the mosque is incredible. Next time, I’ll take you there.”
Ora glimpsed that familiar other-worldly look in Reuven’s eyes as he watched the
distant shadow of the ridge merge with the night.
They entered the city by the International Convention Centre, then cut along a
side-road where they slowed to a crawl behind a garbage collection vehicle
through the debris of the Mahane Yehuda market.
Reuven tapped his fingers impatiently on the wheel.
“Jerusalem’s quite a different world from Tel-Aviv, isn’t it?” remarked Ora,
Some young Arab boys on bikes piled high with pita bread, bagels and discarded
fruit were navigating narrow spaces between the chaotically parked trucks.
“Skilful, aren’t they?” she carried on.
“If you say so,” came Reuven’s disgruntled answer making her turn towards him in
surprise. But before she could say anything, he had stuffed a tape into the
machine, turned it up to high volume and resumed his finger-tapping to the beat
of the music. With a shrug of incomprehension, Ora went back to her window
When at last they emerged from the market, they crossed over the congested Jaffa
Road and headed towards the Old City. The road narrowed as they approached the
Russian Compound, and Reuven parked across from the imposing green-domed
cathedral. The floodlighting of its white stone facade gave it an extraordinary
“Been here before?” asked Reuven.
“Mmm. Long time ago, and it seems different, somehow.”
“They’ve done a clean-up job on some of the buildings.”
“The cathedral’s magnificent, isn’t it?”
“Certainly is. The Russian Consulate used to be in that building over there.
There was originally a hospital here, too - back at the end of the nineteenth
century - and over there were kitchens and hospices for Russian pilgrims.”
Ora loved to hear all Reuven’s explanations. He was a fascinating travel
companion - at some time or other he had mapped almost every street in
Jerusalem, so he knew the place like the back of his hand and told its history
with professional confidence. She latched onto his arm, leaning affectionately
towards him as they walked and he talked. She was relieved that he seemed to
have got over his grouchiness.
The original stone houses of the compound had undergone a facelift recently to
suit the cool fashions of a music-seeking, beer-swilling crowd. Bars had been
installed, where waitresses circulated in the aisles taking European-style tips.
The cafe-theatre at which Reuven was due to appear was one of numerous such
entertainment centres along the cobbled alleyways of the Compound.
“Look down the passageway by the club over there. What do you see?”
“Nothing much,” said Ora. “Just some rather ugly old buildings and a high stone
“That’s the courthouse,” said Reuven breezily. “You must have seen it a thousand
times on TV. The other two buildings are the police headquarters and the
detention centre. Grim, aren’t they?” he said with apparent satisfaction.
She agreed. Paradoxical, she thought, the proximity of these dour establishments
to Jerusalem's most popular young entertainment dive.
“In here,” called Reuven, cutting into her thoughts and prodding her stiffly
through an open doorway. “This is it. Park yourself wherever you can. I’m on
With that, he disappeared into the back, leaving her to her own devices. She
found an empty table towards the stage and ordered herself a long beer. The loud
grating of metal on the stone floor behind her told her that the tables were
filling up. It looked like a full house.
The current set was by a resident musician whose crude renditions of Israeli pop
songs encouraged an enthusiastic off-pitch sing-along by the audience. Passable,
but no competition for Reuven, Ora thought to herself. The garrulous crowd -
soldiers, students, here a tourist, there an ageing hippy - were generous with
When he went on stage, his black waistcoat open over a fresh white shirt and a
wide performer smile stretching to the limits of his cheeks, there was no hint
of the nervousness that Ora had glimpsed earlier. He tossed back some tousled
hair from his brow and launched theatrically into a baudy English ballad. In his
inimitable style, he challenged his listeners’ inhibitions with the artful
movement and explicit gesture that accompanied his music.
Ora watched his girating, ecstatic figure enticing its listeners and reeling
them in. What would it take, she wondered, to satisfy such a voracious appetite
for adoration? If the beat was wild, he needed it wilder; if the lyrics were
crude, he took bawdiness to its limits - A king on his platform, commanding,
manipulating and defying the rules of convention. And his audience followed him
from exuberance to trance and from bright hand clapping to blues. His voice
needed no amplification in the hollow acoustics of the place. Jacques Brel’s
sardonic tale of illicit ladies in the Port of Amsterdam, delivered with
guttural relish and a rawly declaimed finale, ripped wild cheers from all
corners of the room. Then, with saddened eyes he seduced his audience right into
the gut of Elton John's evocative eulogy to the light of Diana, a Candle in the
Wind. Ora, too, allowed herself to be wooed to tears by its tragic beauty. He
actually spoke very little on stage, relying on eye contact and body language to
convey the messages in his music. The high-spirited response was evidence that
he had conquered enough souls to justify this journey to the City of Peace.
At her solitary table, Ora sat sipping beer until her head began to reel. She
looked on in wonder as Reuven’s thirst for self-endorsement manifested itself on
this stage that was its rightful home. It was the same passion that had driven
him to lead Global Dawn. The Circle was just another stage, after all - a clutch
of fellow travellers, believers in his elusive self. She thought back to his
anger at her hesitation to work with him. He needed to be able to count on her
unqualified commitment. His wounded child spirit ever sought affirmation of its
self worth in the glances and arms of women, in a great circle of project
followers and here on stage…
Towards the end of the evening, the audience dwindled and the ambience warmed.
The remaining loyal number moved closer and joined in the refrains of
better-known tunes until closing time was announced.
Off-stage and awaiting the owner’s reaction, Reuven began to seem agitated
again. Instead of admitting his anxiety to Ora, however, he avoided her glances
and made a superficial show of self-confidence by flirting with one of the
waitresses. When, at last, the owner came over to exchange a few words, he
responded with a contrite smile and a terse handshake. Then he beckoned to Ora
and made to leave.
On the way home, she was dying for him to share his feelings with her, but he
was incommunicative. She looked up at him, his eyes fixed on the road as if
oblivious of her. There was a chill in the air and she reached behind her for a
jacket to pull across her shoulders. She rubbed her palms together to warm them.
His focus on the road seemed undeterred by her fidgeting.
“You were really fantastic, tonight,” she ventured.
“It was so special for me. I felt as if you were aiming some of those songs
directly at me. As if there were secret messages there…”
Still intoxicated, she coped badly with this stonewalling of her. As they drove
on, however, he maintained his detachment. She stared at his rigid profile,
searching for ways to soften it into one more amiable.
“Reuven, doesn’t it thrill you?” she insisted. “You have such power over the
“Yeh, I guess so,” he replied, poker-faced.
Not knowing how else to react, she snuggled up to him. She felt his shoulder
first stiffen then relax. Naively misreading his passivity, she let her cheek
fall onto his arm.
When, a half an hour later, the car drew up outside her home, she was utterly
unprepared for his sealing of the night in anger.
“Your infantile demands for attention are really the last thing I needed,
tonight, Ora! I thought you were adult enough to accompany me on a gig without
exploiting the opportunity to selfishly dump a whole load of emotional baggage
“I wasn’t,” she protested. “I was just trying to be supportive...”
“Well, that’s not what it felt like. It seemed like an uncalled-for intrusion on
Devastated, she sulked wordlessly out of the car and into the lobby of her
building. As she entered the darkened apartment, she was relieved her family
were all asleep and would not witness her confusion and tears.
Global Dawn in Summary:
Reuven Sofer, a prophet-like figure believes himself called to build a
mega-project in Jerusalem as part of the universal Master Plan. As
predicted by the insightful Jeanine, his exotic friend and spiritual guide,
the burden of his mission is his eventual downfall while the Global Dawn
project itself rises amid apocalyptic chaos to become humanity’s springboard
into new dimensions of space and time.
Through Global Dawn’s crystal dome a ray of planetary harmony beams into the
cosmos. Reuven is not a witness to these events. Like the biblical figure of
Moses, he has been barred from entering his promised land.
Brief Biographical Detail:
Deborah Gelbard, University of London honours graduate in French and Spanish
Literature, also has a Higher Diploma in French Studies from the University
France. She has published academic essays on the work of Marcel
Proust and is the Technical Editor of Horizon, electronic magazine of the
International Peace Research Association.
Ms. Gelbard has lived, studied and worked in England, France, Belgium, Spain
and Israel, where she has lived since 1978. Her professional experience
includes commercial diplomacy at the British Embassies in Madrid and
Tel-Aviv, marketing consultancy and marketing writing for the hi-tech
industry in Israel.
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