Latest update: August 22nd, 2012
Back in October, 2010, nine workers were saved from a burning building belonging to the Scientology movement in Tel Aviv. Arson was suspected as the cause of the fire. The fire spread to the stairwell, preventing the workers from escaping the building on their own. Firefighters that arrived on the scene successfully overcame the blaze and save the workers. On Tuesday, the new, renovated Scientology Center is opening at the same address.
Recently, Maariv reported that Scientology members in Israel distributed a document that caused an unprecedented storm. The document, “open letter to all Scientologists,” was signed by 14 members of the “Dror College,” a Scientology center in Haifa. The document revealed in great detail the “crimes” they claimed had been committed by the elders of the Main Church of Scientology.
According to Maariv, the document used internal language and codes familiar to the faithful, providing a rare and disturbing glimpse at what happens inside the church. It shed light on the mechanism by which the church operates, including – according to the authors – threats, slander, boycotts, financial exploitation, false propaganda, information control, and a prohibition on the transfer of control or exposure to negative content. “Because of the situation we had to expose the crimes. We do not see any other solution. This is not comfortable, it will make a lot of mess,” the authors wrote.
Apparently, there is a rebellion taking place within the Scientology movement, which encompasses many of its branches in the U.S. as well. It appears that the Scientology movement may be in trouble.
But you wouldn’t get it from the way Scientology is being treated by the Tel Aviv city council, which endowed the Church with the magnificent Alhambra edifice in Jaffa. Two years after the fire, and only a few months after the movement’s attorney was indicted for ordering gangland-style hits on his ex-wife’s husband, the façade, at least, appears solid.
And then IDF Radio on Tuesday morning interviewed Erez Meshulam, who said his family fell apart after his wife had joined the Church of Scientology.
Host Niv Raskin asked Meshulam about the events of 14 years ago, when his wife responded to a Help Wanted ad in the newspaper.
According to Meshulam, the address his wife reached was the Scientology run college. She was handed a 300-question questionnaire, and after she filled it out, Meshulam said it turned out that she was “depressed.”
She was sent by the center to a course in communication, that cost her only 300 shekel ($75). “That’s when the process began, of her falling deeper and deeper into Scientology,” he said.
The host, Raskin, asked if during the course his wife mentioned the term “Scientology.”
“We knew it was a college of Scientology, which must be like any other college,” his guest answered. “I had no idea that Scientology was a cult. Also, after she had started with Scientology she had turned much, much happier. So I was so happy that my wife was happy. Why not?”
Meshulam proceeded: “So she continued to join another course, and another, and it really makes her happier and happier each time.”
He notes: “I did not know what we were entering. They combat Ritalin and other psychiatric drugs. My reaction was, Great, at last there’s an organization that fights over this issue. Until the time my wife, slowly but surely, began to transform.”
“What do you mean?”
“First her body language. When she responded to me, it was a ‘uh hmm,’ a kind of confirmation that she heard me, not more. Slowly this person I had known was changing, and then she started joining courses for 15 thousand shekel ($3,750)…”
“What kind of courses?”
“They audit the students. The idea is that the more you cleanse yourself of your past, so will your life become happier. So you can go back a billion years – for 15 thousand. She was going deeper, and our economic situation was very, very bad. It meant we didn’t buy the kids shoes. We took hand-me-downs from the family. Still, we went and took out a loan from the bank – my parents came and co-signed. And my brother lent us 20 thousand shekel ($4,000).
“Then that same evening after we had taken out the loan, she tells me she had taken out 3,000 dollars and donated it to Scientology. So I ask her, How could you do it? How could you donate 3,000 dollars to Scientology? Do you understand what you’ve done? It was a betrayal of my parents, a betrayal of my brother, a betrayal of the entire world. And look at our fridge – the fridge is empty.
“I told her, Please give me the phone number of the person you gave the money to, because we must get it back…
“She gave me the number and I’m calling him, and I say, you must give us back this money, because we don’t have food in the house. So he says to me, Erez, we are on the same side in this war. So I say to him, don’t you understand that for me this is a war for survival? And I’m looking at my wife and I’m saying, Tell him… Tell him we must have this money back, we don’t have shoes, we don’t have food for the children…
“And then the most terrifying thing happens, as I turn the receiver in her direction, and she suddenly presses back against the wall…”
Apparently, they did not receive the money back.
Meshulam continued: I’ll take you forward to 2007, when she comes up to me and says, I need 80 thousand shekel ($20,000). I mean, I’ve seen my own ID card, and it doesn’t say Meshulam Riklis, or Rothschild. But since at that point I already had my doctorate on Scientology, so I asked her, 80 thousand out of what? Out of 200 thousand? 300 thousand? Stop me when I reach the limit. 700 thousand?
“The thing is, she wanted to become clear. Clear means that you are cleansed of everything. And then all the aliens that invaded you a billion years ago – they’re all cleaned away.”
But, obviously, the financial damage was not the only thing Erez Meshulam had to endure.
“She left the house, of course,” he told IDF Radio. “And she came back four months later, and then, one day, she asks me, Why don’t you love me? So I said, You want to know why I don’t love you? So she said, yes. So I said, Fine, this evening, when all the kids return home, we’ll sit down in a circle and I’ll tell you why I don’t love you.
“It’s evening, we’re all sitting around the table, and I tell the children, I love you, you are the dearest thing to me in the world. Then I looked at my wife and told her, Now you tell the children how much you love them.
“She wasn’t able to tell the children that she loved them.”
“She didn’t say a word?”
“Nothing. She tried to express something, but she couldn’t say the word. You must understand, every person who objects to Scientology is considered a repressive person. And my children, because of the abandonment and all the things they experienced, they were against the Scientology. So in her eyes they were considered repressive people.
“How were they able to take a human being and dismantle her. She used to be an amazing woman… There are moments when she comes up and says, Don’t you understand that I’m happy? So I say, You don’t have your children, how can you be happy? The home you used to have is not the same home. How can you be happy?”
Meshulam said today, Tuesday, was a very sad day. “How can it be,” he asked, “that the Tel Aviv city council decided to give them the Alhambra Theater edifice – Farid al Atrash, Um Kulthum (mythical Egyptian singers) appeared there, My Fair Lady was staged there, it’s a historic place in Israel – to a center that takes advantage of people and hurts people…”
He told IDF Radio that the Scientology group functions clandestinely. A person may be asking for business consulting, and the expert that arrives in his office could be a Scientologist. The center offers very attractive sounding courses, such as a “Parents’ Academy,” which is being run across the country. “The people running this academy are the fishermen and the parents are the fish,” he said.
“They have so many different names,” Meshulam said. “Anyone who’s dishonest must wear many masks.”
He added that he knows the Scientology movement in Israel possesses files on 30 thousand Israeli citizens. These are all individuals who walked in and took the questionnaire, with a lie detector test.
In 2011, on their anniversary, Meshulam’s wife joined the Scientology staff, he related. She signed a contract to study for free at the center for three years, and then she will give seven years of service in return.
“She was swallowed up in there,” he said.
In early 2012 they divorced. But he said that he and his children were committed to getting their mother back, despite everything.
The Scientology Center responded to the IDF Radio show with the following statement: “Erez Meshulam has been voicing his recycled claims for a long time in various means of communication. The Scientology Organization prefers not to mix in the private matters of its members, in this case a divorce. And it certainly is not prepared to expose these private matters, unlike Meshulam, who is cynically using his divorce. We respect our members’ privacy. Calling Scientology a cult is complete ignorance, Scientology is the opposite of a cult. Scientology has no secret rites and no hidden agendas. All of Scientology’s activities are completely transparent and are conducted decently and legally. Scientology respects every religion and objects to every attempt at religious conversion. Scientology is a social organization, recognized in almost every country in the world, whose goals are a war against drugs and violence, guarding human rights, helping individuals and society, help in times of national crisis, etc. In Israel, Scientology is officially recognized as a public benefit company, and all the organization’s activities are to benefit society and individuals. The opening of the new center in Jaffa is welcomed by many of the local elements.”
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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