L. Ron Hubbard Booklet Promoted in Israel and Palestinian Territories

Haaretz has a lengthy article on Scientology in Israel (link added):

…”The Way to Happiness: A Common-Sense Guide to Better Living” is an innocent-looking publication, with a dove and an olive branch on the cover, and 21 precepts inside: Take care of yourself, have self-control, set a good example, do not murder, don’t do anything illegal, be worthy of trust and more.

The messages are Hubbard’s, the distribution of the booklet in Israel is via the Association for Prosperity and Security in the Middle East, which also offers free talks to children and adults. Two weeks ago the booklet was distributed in a summer camp at Kibbutz Nachsholim, which is under Education Ministry supervision…

The Education Ministry said in response that it ordered the camp closed down and that “at no stage was the booklet ‘The Way to Happiness’ authorized by anyone in the ministry.” That is not accurate.

In 2002, Limor Livnat, the education minister at the time, wrote a letter to the chairman of the association, Danny Vidislavski, congratulating him and noting that the booklet was a tool for activity and for contributing to an atmosphere of violence prevention in schools.

YNet had a bit more detail, back in June:

“A guide comes and engages the children in hour-long activities, focusing on respect and caring for others, how to treat one another, and mutual help,” explained Victoria Lischinski, director of the association’s summer camp division.

Lischinski told Ynet that these activities have been available at summer camps for four years, adding that some camps work with the association on a regular basis.

Regarding the association’s connection to the Church of Scientology, Lischinski said, “We have nothing to do with Scientology … I personally am not that connected to them and I don’t really know what Scientology is.”

Lischinski mentioned a letter of approval by former Education Minister Limor Livnat in 2001, and said she was unfamiliar with any prohibition of the association’s activities by the Education Ministry since then.

The text of the letter became news in 2002, when a parent complained about the booklet being given to his daughter at school. The school head sent it to the father:

“Greetings. This is to confirm receipt of your letter and the enclosed booklet, ‘The Way to Happiness,’ noted for its importance in educating youth about violence prevention. Violence is a scourge that must be uprooted. It does not and shall not have a place in the school system, and we will fight it tirelessly. Please accept my congratulations on this project. Yours, Limor Livnat.”

In the margins, the school principal added a “reassuring” message to the father: “Pursuant to your questions and concern, I am enclosing a recommendation from the education minister that this booklet be used as a tool for fostering an atmosphere of violence prevention. Yours, Yardena Cohen.”

Dan Vidislavski, however, denied the booklet was linked to Scientology, despite having been written by Hubbard:

“That’s correct, but so what? He also once wrote science fiction books. Are they Scientology, too?”

The new Haaretz piece has a full account of Scientology in Israel, and the religion’s recent purchase of a theatre in Jaffa:

Donors to the building project include international artist Michal Rovner, [opera singer] Gaby Sade, Dorit Gabay and her daughter and Miriam Soglowek (wife of Soglowek Industries’ shareholder and Scientologist Hanan Soglowek).

As for Hanan Soglowek:

He stepped down from management of the family business in Shlomi seven years ago, after being accused of pressuring employees to join the Church of Scientology. He denied the allegations at the time. At about the same time, he distributed 2,800 copies of Hubbard’s “The Way to Happiness” to Jewish and Arab residents of the Galilee, explaining that the booklet was known for its conciliatory virtues: He credited the publication with improving the situation in Kosovo.

Vidislavski picked up the baton; an undated report from the Scientology Freedom website has further details:

“When the Palestinian uprising started, I was at a barbecue with friends…Right then, I decided that we needed to distribute 20,000 The Way to Happiness booklets to Arabs living in Israel — not in the Palestinian areas, as we couldn’t travel there. But there are many Arabs living in Israel too…There was a problem though: We had no Arabic translation of the booklet. I found out that a translation had been started in Italy. We got a hold of the translation and then contacted a Bedouin who lives in a tent. Astonishingly, he had no electric lights but he had a laptop. He finished the translation for us in a few days. We found an Israeli who could print in Arabic. Within a week of the start of the Intifada, we had printed 20,000 copies of The Way to Happiness booklet…An Arab DJ got a copy of the booklet and read it on the radio. He read one chapter a day for 21 days. Within a few weeks, we distributed all 20,000 booklets.

“In contrast to the Israeli Arabs, the Palestinian Arabs — those outside Israel — turned to violence,” he noted.

The same report tells us that

Joan Lonstein…, founder of the Association for Peace and Understanding in the Middle East (APUME), has joined forces with Zeinab Habash…of the Palestinian Ministry of Education, and like-minded Israeli and Arab humanitarians, to make The Way to Happiness available in Israeli newspapers (1), in shopping hubs (2), on the streets (3), at university campuses (4) and in the markets (5).

Habash gushed over the book’s virtues at the 2003 grand opening of The Way to Happiness Foundation International:

As General Secretary of Education, I tried to find ways to help my children face this horrible situation.

I formed a special committee from related personnel to produce an action plan for improving education.

The Way to Happiness, this thin and amazing book, attracted me like a magnet. It reflects my own beliefs. It speaks of equality, justice, freedom, peace, tolerance, and good behavior.

It gives hope to anyone and everyone, of any faith.

When I later saw how it helped improve the political situation in other countries, I became even more determined to distribute the booklet to all Palestinians.

…That is why I am very proud that the Ministry’s Committee on Improving Education has directed all school counselors to teach the Palestinian children using The Way to Happiness.

A second report adds that

With the help of these and grants from the International Association of Scientologists, in the last three years, the Association has distributed more than 1.5 million The Way to Happiness booklets to Palestinians and Israelis…. Public opinion surveys conducted by Hebrew University and a Palestinian research center have found that as the booklets are distributed, public support for peace builds among both Israelis and Palestinians.

Scientology is not the only new religious movement which has targeted Israelis and Palestinians in the name of promoting peace; a few months ago Rev Moon’s Middle East Peace Initiative announced a Cultural Center for Jewish-Christian-Muslim Dialogue in the area.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)

3 Responses

  1. […] offer the region: we’ve noted plans by Rev Moon to establish a peace centre in Galilee, and the promotion of a booklet by L. Ron Hubbard. And let’s not forget the famous plans of the Raelians to build an […]

  2. […] is building an inter-faith centre in Galilee,  while Hubbard’s The Way to Happiness has been widely distributed among Israelis and Palestinians, with some official […]

  3. […] I blogged The Way to Happiness back in August; in 2002 it was praised by Israeli education minister Limor Livnat, and it has also been promoted in the Palestinian territories by Zeinab Habash of the Palestinian Ministry of Education. […]

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