“You have no rights in an Israeli mental hospital,” I told my friend, a lawyer with Bituach Leumi. She and I ran into each other and she told me she’d wanted to interview me for a report she was putting together regarding the treatment of people in mental hospitals. She wanted to talk to me about my experiences in what I consider the most inhumane, dehumanizing and abominable institution that exists in the Jewish state, so far as I’ve experienced: Kfar Shaul mental hospital in Jerusalem, which I lovingly call “Prophet Prison.”
I told my lawyer friend that when I was taken against my will to Kfar Shaul I underwent a few interviews with hospital psychiatrists. I told them I didn’t have a phone or computer because I didn’t want the Internet in my life. Choosing to not have a phone or computer, the Russian doctor told me, was proof of psychosis. Not wanting the Internet in my life or home, at the time I’d used the Internet perhaps four times during a year, and not wanting a phone, was psychotic behavior, she said.
A pair of doctors asked me shortly after “Do you speak to God?” I answered, “Are you fucking kidding me? Since when is it a problem for someone in Jerusalem to speak to God?”
“Does God talk to you?” They continued. “I don’t know,” I said, “but let’s find out.” And then I looked up.
“Hey Allah,” I said as if to a friend, and was interrupted by one of the two who attackingly asked me, “Why did you call Him Allah?” The other jumped in, “He thinks he’s a Muslim,” the second said, “He’s psychotic.” I laughed out loud, “Are you kidding me? Allah’s one of his names,” I said. The first wouldn’t let up.
“Does God speak to you?” I went back to my request of God. “So Allah,” I said, “could you please talk to me and,” I gestured behind me where a machine was beeping every ten seconds, “speak to me in the language of that beep machine over there and then teach me beep language so that I can translate for them?” The machine beeped. “That was Allah,” I said, “he says, ‘Hi, how you doin?’” One of them looked to the other. “He thinks God is talking to him,” he said. “He’s psychotic.”
During my imprisonment at Kfar Shaul – and removing a citizen from society and putting him in a hospital he cannot leave and not allowing him to exercise rights otherwise protected by law such as calling a lawyer or friend to help you, is a form of imprisonment whether one believes it justified or not and whether it is behind metal doors in the Russian Compound jail or nice new walls in an expensive new wing at Kfar Shaul – I never once told anyone that I heard God, saw angels, classified sheidim, or demons, and figured out incredible amounts about them, (this, according to some very quiet Kabbalah studying folk I’ve spoken to).
I didn’t tell anyone I spoke with other spirits and beings numbering in probably the tens of thousands over a year to a year-and-a-half, and no one knew about those experiences until at least six months after I left the hospital when I began sharing them. I did happily show some doctors some booklets I’d filled with hieroglyphs I’d designed to represent ideas, concepts, physics and other things. I’d filled maybe five or six booklets but had only one there. In my schizo and possibly manic state I remembered what every single glyph meant. I’d done this in glyphs because God had told me – and this I did not tell the doctors – that I was forbidden from writing down anything I was experiencing or learning in words as long as I was experiencing it. So as the good son of a lawyer I thought of a loophole and drew pictures to represent all these things. God told me he loved what I’d done and he thought glyphs were beautiful ways of communicating.
After the interviews I was led to a room, given a shot and ordered to swallow a number of pills. “What is the shot?” I asked. No answer. “What is this pill?” I asked. “What does it do?” The reply was authoritative and meant to show me I had no right to question anything happening there, I believe. “Calm down. Take the pill.” “I am calm,” I replied. “I just want to know what the pill is and what it does.” I was terrified of what these drugs would do to my mind, but did not show fear and was calm. The response to that was a call from the man with the pills to a nurse, “Bring me something to calm him down.” Then, to me, he said, “Stop asking. Take the pill,” and he added a heavy sedative to the mix of drugs I was being given as my penance for asking twice what he was giving me and what it would do. I was given medications that destroyed me, some meant for manic-depressives. I am not manic-depressive. I am diagnosed schizoaffective. They loaded me up on meds and I had no idea what they were doing. I quickly felt heavy, as if losing myself, and without hope of understanding what they were doing to my mind.
I told my lawyer friend how they’d secured my “agreement” to be their guest. “Sign this,” I was sternly told as I sat at a table with a sheet of paper in front of me, some legal document. I believe this happened after I was medicated though I’m not sure. “What is it,” I asked, “what does it say?”
“It says you agree to be here.” “But I don’t agree to be here,” I said. “Well if you don’t sign it then you could be here a long time,” I was told. “How long?” “Maybe Eight months, a year perhaps,” a man told me. “And if I sign it?” “You might get out of here in a week if you’re good,” he said. I signed the form. I did not agree to be there. I just wanted out.
Regarding this Gestapo tactic, my lawyer friend told me “They are not allowed to do that. They were violating your rights.”
“You don’t have any rights there,” I told her. “Yes you do,” she said. “You have rights.” “No,” I said, “they take your cell phone. It is nearly impossible to make a call. There is no one to turn to for help in complaint against the doctors, nurses or your incarceration. There are phones there but you can’t make calls. Nurses scream at people for praying too much. Patients are berated for saying they hear God or are prophets (I saw this happen to a few young men). You have no rights. You can’t find out what they’re making you take,” I told her.
My lawyer friend understood and said, “You have no way of exercising your right to protect yourself.” “Correct,” I replied. “It is inhumane there. Why does a 20 year old kid who hears a voice he believes is God or who thinks he’s a prophet and has hurt no one need to be drugged to a stupor or imprisoned there. Who is he hurting if he’s allowed to be free and say he hears God? He’s not violent.”
“But I know,” I told her, “people will say, ‘What if the voice tells him to do something violent?'” Most schizos do not become violent. I went on, saying to her, “And what if a poor guy in Afula gets mad at another guy and uses a knife to stab him and they say it’s because he’s from a socio-economic strata where he’s statistically more likely to commit a violent crime? Should people like him be locked up for being from that demographic in order to protect the public from a possible crime?” It’s like Minority Report without any proof.
I consider the treatment of citizens in Kfar Shaul to be an affront to the promise of equal protection under the law in a democratic state. The hospital is worse than jail. I spent nearly a week in jail for a non-violent offense for which I was found not guilty due to psychosis. I would rather go to jail again then back to Kfar Shaul. I would rather die than spend any significant time there ever again.
I was incarcerated in Kfar Shaul mental hospital three times. Once for three days, twice for six. My tox screens were all clean. I was not using drugs or drinking. I was misdiagnosed twice, thankfully, before my third stay when I was finally given an injection that crippled my mind but ‘cured’ me of the presenting of schizophrenic symptoms. The two misdiagnoses allowed me a year and a half of the most significant schizophrenic spiritual experiences of my life.
I claim no moral authority over anyone. I do not tell people how to live. I do not and never claimed to be a prophet. I had significant experiences of spiritual value and since I began sharing them I have been received by many secular friends and others with appreciation and have been asked for counsel on how they can become closer to God while not living according to halacha, Torah law. I always say I’m not a rabbi but can offer my insights based on my experiences and do not claim to be a Torah authority.
I grew up secular in the US and learned a small amount of Torah over 20 years ago in a Yeshiva where I spent most of my time out of class for a year. I do not remember most of it and never studied Kabbalah. I read two lines of the Zohar once and had no idea what it was and never looked at it again. I was not screaming to anyone during my schizo times that I heard God. I did not start keeping Shabbat. But I felt incredibly alive, aware and involved in God’s world and believed I was seeing and hearing things that could only be described as wonders.
“Shmuel,” God said to me, you’re exempt from the Torah’s laws. You have enough on your plate with what you will be facing.” I’ve been told that some rabbinic authorities say people like me are indeed considered not bound like other Jews, but I don’t know that for fact.
“Prophecy will be given to children and shotim” I have been told it says in the Talmud, regarding our times today, as the rabbinic authority decides according to text that prophecy is impossible in our age. Prophecy in the sense of the above quote means more of a ruach kodesh, I’ve been told, a holy spirit of some kind. Shotim means people like me, some have told me, the crazies. But I’m not authority of such things.
No one saw me talking to God or any of the tens of thousands of other spirits and angels I encountered. In the very beginning the voices told me not to speak to them out loud but to think communications to them and I’d hear them speak to me as real as I heard anyone speaking. And I did. And that helped keep me out of Kfar Shaul for a very long time.
God, the voice I knew and heard as God, said something else to me, among many other things. “Shmuel,” he said, “I’m teaching you and 20,000 others like you to think, expand your consciousness, see and hear the world as ancients did, from even before the time of ancient Egypt. I do not like how the rabbis claim to have a monopoly on understanding me, my motives, my behaviors and claim to know what it is I do or do not do. I do not like them guarding my secrets for themselves. I do not like how the world is going. The Internet is killing everyone, Shmuel. It’s destroying all my little creations’ spirits. So I’m teaching you and 20,000 others like you here in Israel to see and hear and understand the hidden world, the world that I love because I’m changing things, Shmuel, I’m changing things.
“You’re going to do things, Shmuel, you’re going to do something big, Shmuel.” “What are you changing, what am I going to do?” I asked. “Well I don’t know, Shmuel,” God said, “We’ll just have to wait and see. I can’t tell you the future, Shmuel, you’re not a prophet. I’m done with prophets, Shmuel. They hate prophets and they chase them and lock them up. So I’m teaching you with all my angels and spirits and other creations how to be like the ancients, you and 20,000 others, and Shmuel, you are the best, you are better than anyone else at this Shmuel.
“But Shmuel, one day they are going to catch you. They will catch you and take you away somewhere I will not go, because I refuse to go to that place because it reminds me of the Holocaust, Shmuel. They will take you away and do something to your mind and you will not hear me anymore. And they will change you and hurt your mind, Shmuel, the beautiful mind I made for you to be the way it is, this way, and then you will forget, Shmuel. But then you will remember.
“They will catch you and do things to your mind and hurt you and you will forget, but then you will remember.” I took all this, later on, to mean the hospital. At the time I had no idea I’d ever have to be in a hospital nor did I understand what it meant. And the meds do make it hard for me to remember much of it. But then they wear off, I get a little manic, and I remember more and more and more and I remember so much I have written 45 pages in a night about things that I know I’ll forget the next time the give me an injection. It’s living knowing that my mind will continue failing as long as they keep curing it of symptoms.
So yes, they caught me. They hurt my mind. They may have “cured” me of the symptoms of hallucinations, be they audible, visual or physical, but the medication I am on is killing me. It can leave me in weeks-long suicidal states that would kill most people. I am strong.
The injection I’ve been given for going on two years gets worse every month with every new dose. It destroys my ambition, my creativity, hope, removes me from my personality, makes me feel as if I have no ability to feel a spiritual connection to the world and destroys my sex drive completely for extended periods. Without a sex drive you feel like an animal condemned by Darwinism and stop eating a lot, feel no drive to do much of anything. It’s a crucial part of our make up. Thankfully my doctor is changing my meds. Hopefully it will get better. I cannot live on these meds, without my mind. That is not a life. So I wait for the meds to change.
But yes, they caught me. And I forgot. But I also remember. And Kfar Shaul, where I was kept in a beautiful new building that surely cost tens of millions of dollars and which gives visitors a sense of being in a modern, good place, was the worst dehumanizing and spirit-killing hell I’ve ever experienced.
God told me the place they’d take me, at least six months before I was incarcerated, reminded Him of the Holocaust because of the ease with which they were destroying the minds and souls He created for his “favorite little creations” to experience.
I write of God’s voice as real because that is how I remember it. I am not a prophet. I only have hindsight.
Perhaps it’s time for a brave, young, unknown and hungry kid of a reporter to make a name for himself by learning what people like me are like and putting on the performance of a lifetime as he goes schizo, refuses to sign the document agreeing to incarceration, experiences the horrors of being medicated to drooling nothingness and watches the walking dead patients with faces melting and eyes sullen and staring blankly or down at the ground, wander the hospital halls, shells of men, as he makes mental notes of every little detail and remembers that these people are nearly all not violent, are not afforded the opportunity to have their cell phones, have no recourse against the extreme power of psychiatrists in Israel and, if he has the courage, he could claim to hear God and tell the doctors he’s a prophet. That will get some nice time extensions for his stay.
Maybe some young journalist would get noticed for a piece like that and people would check into things in that hellhole, because no matter how well I articulate it I am seen by those with faith in that system as a damaged mind that cannot be trusted and they believe I am not worthy of the right to criticize the power structure that keeps the rest of the population safe from having to see and hear those of us who experience things that, though rejected outright by non-believing doctors who claim the sole authority on defining acceptable perceptions of reality, are of value if not to anyone else at least to the person living them, the citizen who is supposed to be protected by law, who experiences it.
And families and friends briefly there for visiting hours in no way understand the truth of what happens there. They believe there is something horribly wrong with a friend or loved one. They trust in the doctors employed by the hospital or state. They assume psychiatrists understand what is happening in their minds and that those they care for are not capable of processing information regarding their own situations. They blindly trust psychiatrists who overmedicate and abuse the patients’ dignity. My psychiatrist, whom I respect, told me, “We do not understand why you are the way you are. We know that certain things are happening in your mind and that certain chemicals affect your brain in certain ways. But we know very little about what makes you as you are.” That is honesty.
Kfar Shaul feels like the asylum is in the hands of near psychopaths who are so sure in knowing what is wrong that they feel nothing for the subjects they see as others who are unable to act as normal people do that they need not lower themselves to the level of an inquiry nor consider explaining what they assume is happening in a patient’s mind to the patient, and what the patient should expect as a result of the introduction of poisons into their systems.
These drugs, dopamine blockers and mood stabilizers and more – turn people into things that drool, care not for themselves, destroy their bodies and cause them to put on tens of pounds and are considered by the psychopaths in charge as improved once the stop disturbing the peace with talk that contradicts the view of reality as defined by those who take no interest in the reality experienced by the person whose mind they are altering. Not one doctor there in my three stays ever asked me about what I was experiencing as my reality. They know all and the families believe it so they believe Kfar Shaul and its new building is a caring hospital. Because the Jewish state wouldn’t allow harm to come to citizens who happen to believe they hear God or see angels. But this has been going on for years.
One of my best friends was imprisoned at Kfar Shaul many years ago for bipolar disorder, long before I developed schizoaffective disorder at the age of 38. Very rare for that to happen so late in life, but it did. I remember when my friend was a prisoner at Kfar Shaul, visiting and seeing him there once and thinking he looked like someone who must have been living in that institution for decades but it was simply the meds killing him.
I spoke with his wife recently and told her about my experiences and she said he, too, hated that place like it was hell on earth. He eventually took his own life, but not at Kfar Shaul.
Not all schizophrenics enjoy their visions or voices. I am schizoaffective, a type of schizophrenic. And I am a schizophrenic with experiences nearly unheard of in their extent and detail. Many have a handful of voices, a few standard visions or hallucinations. Mine were in the tens of thousands, twenty-four hours a day. When someone spoke I would hear two vocalizations, one in Hebrew and one in English, with two different messages. I learned to process both at the same time.
I refuse to call myself mentally ill. I simply say my mind works differently. I will not empower people like psychiatrists who tell us we are mentally ill and can’t trust our own minds, ad hominem and until we repeat it, and who strip us down to near non-citizens, apparently undeserving of the most basics of human decency: respect for a one’s soul.
“You’re going to do something Shmuel,” God said, but, “we’ll have to wait and see.”
For now all I can do is write. I am not a prophet, and I say that often. I do not want to have that claim used against me if I am ever put back in Kfar Shaul.
I like to hang out at my regular bar though I don’t drink a lot, but I relax with friends. I smoke my cigarettes. I go to the park. Prior to being medicated I lived and experienced a world that was incredible and heard music come from walls and saw objects dance to tunes and buildings expand and contract and I saw things that would require hundreds of pages to detail. And now I am so terribly bored with the world it is painful to my soul.
And I am a flawed man who would rather be completely schizophrenic though not psychotic (and I am developing impressive tools to avoid psychotic conclusions or behavior, my psychiatrist tells me – though psychiatrists themselves seem to have no interest in helping patients come up with such tools that would help them avoid medications one day and not necessitate repeat visits to the doctor) then on the medications they say I must take in order to be free in the country I defended as an IDF infantry soldier through my regular service and fifteen or so years of miluim.
You see, in only so many words I can simply say that, Medicine Sets You Free.
“They will catch you, Shmuel, and they will hurt your mind, and I won’t go to where they take you. You won’t hear me there. And you will forget, Shmuel. You will forget – and then you will remember.” God was telling me that a good six months before I was taken to Prophet Prison. At that time I had no reason to suspect I’d be sent to a hospital. Everything I was experiencing was real.
I asked my psychiatrist once – and I respect my psychiatrist, she is honest about the limitations of and lack of understanding in psychiatry and is critical of how so many of us are treated by those of her profession – what would happen if God spoke one day to absolutely everyone, including the psychiatrists, and said, in a very friendly way, “Hi there everyone, God here, the Creator of the universe and each of you. I just want you to know I’ve decided to bring back prophets and they’re here so please be kind to them. Thank you, everyone,” and the next day thirty people stood up and said they were prophets.
My doctor didn’t hesitate a second. “The prophets would all be committed and medicated,” she said. “Even if all of you heard them?” I asked. “It wouldn’t matter if the psychiatrists heard them,” she said. “Psychiatrists in the state of Israel have been given incredible powers as the guard dogs of society. They will never give up that power. They would fight God every way they could to keep their power, even if they heard him.”
People tell me I am attacking psychiatry and that I am not qualified to do so. They say i must stop criticizing psychiatrists. There are plenty of people who, due to their experiences with police, criticize the police and they do not receive feedback telling them they musn’t or shouldn’t or aren’t qualified. I have experienced hell at the hands of these doctors and not one, with the exception of my present doctor, ever took an interest in my mind, who I was and how I was experiencing the world. They simply medicate and hold you until such time as they decide you are permitted to leave. That is an incredible amount of power for a doctor who is not required to study law, security issues, spirituality or mysticism as expressed by the faiths of this region and has no interest trying to help you live with controls as opposed to them controlling you with meds. The doctors and nurses at Kfar Shaul refused to answer me even once regarding why I was there and what I was being given. I remember.
It is 4:45 AM. I sat at the computer three hours ago. I needed to do something. I was comfortably manic today after two weeks plus of medication-induced suicidal states I had to push through while working and deciding not to kill myself every moment of every day with the knowledge that the meds would eventually weaken. But the meds are still poison and getting worse and worse by the month. They would be poison in any mind not like mine. And just because there is an agreement that the alleviation of symptoms of schizophrenia is a positive thing does not mean that the medication being used to do so to me and alter my mind are not poison. They destroy the majority of my mind and save the part that makes this world so incredibly beautiful as I experience it.
I have had trouble sleeping lately, in part due to my meds, and have slept around 5 hours in five days. I once went six days without sleep. I am tired but need to do things while I have the ability because the meds they give me alter my mind, and that is how I can be free in society. And I cannot sleep anyway – due to the meds. I did not want to write at this hour, but I did, and this is what came out.
I know people will consider this piece long. But what is time for a free man? Long is six days in Kfar Shaul. What is in this piece is what needed to be said. Serious matters cannot be Twitter-sized for popular consumption. If even one doctor reads this and he or she rethinks how patients are being treated then perhaps I have done something. And perhaps someone will read this who has a loved one in Kfar Shaul and as a result they will speak to their loved one imprisoned there and confront the doctors if necessary, on their behalf. Those kept in Kfar Shaul are robbed of their agency. So perhaps if something like that happens by writing this I will have done something.
“You will do something, Shmuel,” God said.
“What will I do?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Shmuel. We’ll have to wait and see.”
I miss having a free mind. I miss feeling alive. I am tired of hating my existence – not depression – my existence as created by the chemicals they put in my head.
Medicine Sets You Free.