21 Mar 2008

Unlicensed Scientology kindergartens operating in Tel Aviv

Ynetnews - Israel

March 21, 2008

At least three kindergartens spread out through Israeli urban sprawl offer children educational teachings of controversial cultist movement. Only one institute received municipal approval, but failed to note its religious leanings

Merav Shlomo

Any kindergarten in Israel with more than 10 children requires the approval of the Education Ministry, but three kindergartens offering children the education teaching of the controversial Scientology movement are operating in Tel Aviv these days without the ministry being aware of their principles.

One of these kindergartens, in the Nahalat Yitzhak neighborhood has about 90 children. Although it received the Education Ministry's approval, it failed to note its religious leanings.

The ministry has never even heard of the other two Scientology kindergartens, one in the Yad Eliyahu neighborhood and the other on Keren Kayemet Street in northern Tel Aviv.

The Scientology cultist movement was materialized in the United States in the 1950s. Its principles were developed from author L. Ron Hubbard's set of ideas and practices regarding the relationship between the spirit, mind and body presented in the book "Dianetics".

In the book, Hubbard developed ideas in regards to ways humans can release themselves from mental elements preventing them from studying, developing and reaching a deeper understanding of the world.

One of the issues characterizing education according to the Scientology ideas is teaching respect, human rights and friendship – expressed in addressing children at eye level. When a teacher speaks to one of his or her pupils, he or she will bend down in order to prevent significant height differences.

It should be noted that a visit to one of the three kindergartens did not reveal any strange or severe issues in the teachers' treatment of the children, and yet these kindergartens are operating without a license and without being supervised by the Education Ministry. Avi Katzover, an Education Ministry spokesman for the Tel Aviv District, said in response that "the kindergarten (in Nahalat Yitzhak) was granted an operating license after it was made clear that it has no security or health risks. The license is temporary until the end of the school year. "The pedagogical aspect will be examined this year and we will then make a final decision whether to grant it a permanent license for the coming years as well.

"As for the Scientology issue, the Education Ministry is unaware of such principles being taught in the kindergarten. The supervisor examined the kindergarten's education contents and did not spot any Scientology content. The teacher also denied any involvement in the cult."

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  1. Israeli town tries to oust Scientology school

    Israel Today October 02, 2011

    Residents of the central Israel town of Yehud are concerned after a school affiliated with the Church of Scientology opened in their Tel Aviv suburb with the start of the new school year.

    Locals had tried to block the opening of the new Atid School, but their protests were apparently registered too late. But that won't stop them and the anti-missionary group Yad L'Achim from continuing their efforts to remove the school.

    The Atid School previously operated in the central town of Holon. It was started so that Israeli members of the Church of Scientology would have a place to send their children to be taught in line with their religion. But after Holon residents complained that the school was actively trying to "recruit" local children, it was forced to shut down and find a new home.

    Despite the backlash, Israel's Ministry of Education has officially recognized the Atid School, meaning it is eligible for government funding, and can issue diplomas to Israeli students.

    It should be noted that Yad L'Achim targets Messianic Jews with the same or greater vigor that it goes after adherents of Scientology. Only in the case of Messianics, Yad L'Achim has had greater success, but also greater setbacks.

    Many Messianic Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel are blocked, at least temporarily, because of Yad L'Achim pressure on the government. Israel's only Messianic day school, Makor HaTikvah, is still struggling to gain academic recognition because of similar pressure.

    At the same time, the Israeli media has enthusiastically covered the assault on local Messianics, creating a wave of sympathy from average Israelis and increasing interest in the faith of their Messianic brethren.


    1. I was interviewed at this school in Yehud, Atid Hadash. I was actually invited to the school three times. I had no idea that the school was connected to Scientology until the third visit when the principal showed me a book written by Ron Hubbard. I FREAKED!! I did not take the job offer after the interview and I just found this article about the school two days after I had the interview. I am so glad to come across this article. It amazes me how they never told me that they were a Scientology school until my third visit.

  2. First Scientology centre in the Middle East opens in Israel

    By Sandy Rashty, Jewish Chronicle August 23, 2012

    Israeli academics and politicians attended the opening ceremony for the controversial religious movement, frequently attacked as a cult, at the former Alhambra theatre, a 1937 Art Deco building, in Jaffa.

    But Meital Lehavi, a member of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council, said: “Jaffa is a house for everyone, accepting everyone.

    “I am confident that by sitting together, thinking together and working together, we keep Jaffa the home for everyone. This new centre will have an important part in leading the way."

    Dr Rimon Kasher, from the Department of Biblical Studies at Bar-Ilan university, said the centre made an important contribution to the region.

    “I believe Scientology is the only religion that can create a connection or even affinity between the different faiths and the only one that can relieve the tension between religions.

    “It is my hope that this will mark a turning point for not just the entire Israeli society, but for all of the Middle East.”

    David Miscavage, Scientology's chairman of the Religious Technology Centre, spoke at the opening ceremony.

    Israeli architect Eyal Ziv worked on the centre’s Alhambra theatre and called it a “Jaffa jewel.”


  3. What Is the Church of Scientology Doing in Israel?

    by Julie Gray, Writer, Editor, Speaker, Storyteller

    Huffington Post November 13, 2015

    The Scientology Centre in Jaffa sticks out like a store thumb. Located in a richly renovated and cavernous theatre evidently from the 1930s, the centre is pristine and gleaming on a street mostly populated with kiosks selling candy, cigarettes and falafel.
    Jaffa is one of the oldest cities in antiquity, said to be where Andromeda was rescued by Perseus and where Jonah came forth from the belly of a great fish. Jaffa has been conquered and ruled by King Solomon, Saladin and King Richard the Lionhearted. Today the population in Jaffa, which is part of the municipality of Tel Aviv, is a mixed population of Jews and Muslims known not only for its history and beautiful architecture but also for poverty, crime and violence. Hipsters love Jaffa. It is, in other words, a very mixed plate and a very peculiar place to find the only Scientology centre in the Middle East.

    The Church of Scientology opened its doors in August, 2012, and has drawn little attention except for some mildly uncomfortable coverage of an anti-psychiatry exhibit in 2013 in which the suicide of a faded Israeli celebrity, Dudu Topaz, was used as an example of psychiatry gone wrong.

    I have walked by the incongruous Scientology Centre in Jaffa many times and have never been able to wrap my mind around why on earth they have a presence in a country that is overwhelmingly religious, with Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians. Who is the target audience of Scientology here?

    Having recently delved into the world of NGOs and other peace organizations operating in Israel I have learned quite a lot about the numerous programs here, who funds them and why. I have been doing so out of my own curiosity, as a way to assuage the despair that sometimes comes over me, and because I have my own baby peace initiative in early stages, Truth & Beauty, which teaches media literacy and diverse thinking. I have been looking for partners and funding.

    So Scientology -- I thought, the other day, as I walked back through Jaffa to catch the bus home after having sat with yet another NGO to discuss their efforts. Huh. I couldn't help but wonder if this large and legendarily monied organization also has initiatives to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

    What would be wrong with simply asking, I thought, as I prised open the very heavy door to the centre. What I found inside was not surprising and yet still so out of place in Jaffa. The interior of the centre is a gleaming expanse of rows and rows of Dianetics books in English, Russian, Hebrew and Arabic. Several wall mounted televisions showed videos about Scientology, available in a number of languages, on what seemed like a continuous loop.

    I introduced myself to the receptionist and asked if I could speak to anyone about peace initiatives that Scientology is involved with here in Israel. This seemed to set off a flurry of activity and some concern. In the 40 or so minutes I was there, I was plunked in front of one of the videos and asked by four different people, four different times, what my name was, who I was writing for, and why I was writing an article about them. I'm just a blogger, I said. I'm just curious. I'm interested in the peace initiatives in Israel and I simply wondered if -- how do you spell your last name? It was written down scrupulously -- again.

    continued below

  4. You blog at the Huffington Post? one of my chaperones asked, with a smile. I spend every afternoon dealing with the Huffington Post. Are you sure they'll publish this? He smiled broadly. It only struck me later that I had been given a warning of some sort. Or had I? Being in a Scientology centre comes with a degree of paranoia.

    Scientology isn't new to Israel and in fact there was a major falling out between the Church and the Haifa branch -- the entirety of whom are considered "suppressives" now, which is to say that they have been excommunicated.

    After a pleasant yet strangely arduous period of time, being bounced between two Scientology leaders in allegedly important positions, two receptionists, a very nice woman who, it was emphatically pointed out, was not a Scientologist, a brief tour of the cafeteria and an awkward elevator ride, I still hadn't had my simple question answered. What does Scientology do in Israel connected to the conflict.

    Finally, I eked out a kind of an answer to my question about Scientology's possible programs connected to this conflict. Many things! Drug prevention programs and --no, I mean the conflict, I said. Do you have programs specifically to address this conflict in Israel or in the West Bank? Well, yes, in the West Bank.

    I was incredulous. What is it called, what is the agenda, where is the cooperation coming from? These, apparently, were questions not of particular interest, as they were not answered.

    There are two ways to operate a conflict/resolution program in the West Bank. Under the radar, at your own personal risk, without the cooperation you need and therefore with a minimal promise of impact, or on the radar, with the permission and cooperation of the Palestinian Authority and the US or other foreign consulates. Being on the radar is obviously the more productive way to go but it does mean closer scrutiny of your program.

    Having not found any actual answers of substance at the Scientology Centre, and after having politely declined a longer meeting the next day, and a tour of the facility, I went home and began to Google, and found that several years ago, there was some suspicion cast on a youth group activity here found to be backed by Scientology. It wasn't anything shocking, necessarily. I was slightly put off by the fact that the gentleman mentioned in the article was the selfsame man who I had just spoken with at the centre. Eli is very handsome and charming, actually. As I left the centre and headed toward the elevator, he called after me -- Julie! I turned. Are you sure you know how to get out of here?

    Israelis and Palestinians alike are generally very dubious of any "foreigner" who tries to insert themselves into the conflict here. They come by their suspicions honestly; unless the party in question is transparently on one "side" or another, or can convincingly prove that their efforts are truly only humanitarian in nature, resistance will be met. Just about everybody has some kind of agenda when it comes to this place and this conflict. A less pleasant agenda that does seem to rustle around in an under current is, of course, greased palms.

    I didn't find any answers but you will forgive me for wondering -- what is the Church of Scientology doing in Israel?