Shiny & Free
From the Village Voice
http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/12/david_miscavige_scientology_israel_inglewood.phpThe Voice was leaked a copy of Scientology's latest gala -- its October meeting of the International Association of Scientologists -- which took place in the UK, near L. Ron Hubbard's legendary home, Saint Hill Manor.
At three hours long, it's an interminable amount of time to watch diminutive church leader David Miscavige talk about what a bang-up job Scientology is doing to make the world a better place. Honestly, I don't know how the guy does it. He doesn't seem to have Teleprompters, and never glances at his script. [Mike Rinder has corrected me on this. See note, below.] He just goes on and on in a program that was clearly written carefully ahead of time, extolling the gains of the past decade since the 9/11 attacks, which he calls "The Wake-Up Call."
Somehow, we got nearly to the end of the three hours, when something happened that was really interesting -- at least to us here at the Voice. Miscavige started talking about a place we've actually been to and reported on. He started talking, in other words, about the new "org" in Jaffa, Israel, that is associated with attempted murder, two arson attempts, and a hairy new lawsuit. Oh, this ought to be good, we thought!
Somehow, Miscavige left all that good stuff out. We've taken about four minutes from the video so you can see how he characterized the new building..Miscavige gave this presentation in October, giving the impression that the org was open for business with its "more than 200 staff."
In November, when we went by to see for ourselves, it was a different story.
The building, formerly an Art Deco 1930s masterpiece known as the Alhambra theater, has indeed been restored to its former glory by an Arab Islamic contractor from Nazareth named Naif Salati, who is now suing Scientology. Salati's attorney, Eitan Erez, told me that Salati was shorted millions of shekels in the renovation. Salati was also never told that it was Scientology he was doing the renovation for. He was hired by a man named Gur Finkelstein, who purported to be the sole owner. In fact, Finkelstein was an attorney fronting for Scientology as the church attempted to get a toehold in Tel-Aviv/Jaffa.
Finkelstein himself turned out to be quite a piece of work. As we've written previously, Finkelstein is in jail awaiting trial on multiple counts of attempted murder and attempted arson as he allegedly tried to have the building burned down twice; he is also accused of trying to have killed a municipal official who opposed part of the building's expansion, a man who is married to his ex-wife, and a witness to the fire-bombings.
Even with Finkelstein in jail and Salati suing, the building is finished and ready for business, but when we visited in November, it still hadn't opened its doors. Scientology was waiting for a government office to give it a permit to allow in the public. Unlike the U.S., Israel is one of those countries that doesn't automatically roll over if you call yourself a church on the way to taking money out of people with claims of giving them superpowers. (I'm checking on the current status of the building and the lawsuit.)
After celebrating one "Ideal Org" with issues, Miscavige then turns to another, the recently-opened facility in Inglewood, California, which is Scientology's most ambitious effort yet to get a few black people into what is otherwise a lily-white enterprise. (Harlem has an org, but I was just told by a fellow reporter that it has a total of 9 members, and we've documented Scientology's strange alliance with the Nation of Islam, which can't end well.)
We felt we must share with you Miscavige's performance as he transitions from talking about the new Jaffa org to the one in Inglewood. Prepare to cringe...