The New York Times, Jan. 5, 2003 (Opinion)
By NOAM COHEN
Under some generalized theory of the universe, it was probably inevitable that one day a France-based sect would, among other things, worship aliens from outer space, try to clone a human and hatch a plan to settle in Israel. A few weeks ago, this pattern began to take shape. The Raëlians are led by a prophet, Claude Vorilhon, who says he encountered scientist-aliens in 1973 on a volcano crater in France. The aliens renamed him Raël; they told him that they had created earth people in their own (genetic) image, and they gave him a task. No, it was not to clone a human. That feat, which the group, without providing evidence, proclaimed a success on Dec. 27, simply illustrates a truth of the universe, as expressed in one of the organization’s founding tenets: “The created will one day become creator.”
No, the true task Raël was given was to build a suitable embassy for his alien visitors to meet with earthlings, preferably in the Holy Land. According to the group’s Web site, www.rael.org, it has not been easy, with $7 million raised for a project that could cost three times as much. Following are excerpts from the group’s own account of its long, lonely quest for an embassy — and a country to put it in.
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Decades of sci-fi movies will attest to the inherent logic of needing an embassy. The Elohim — as the aliens call themselves — may have the means to spontaneously create life forms or master interstellar travel, but presumably lack entry visas for most countries. A surprise visit without the abiding presence of a fully sanctioned embassy risks a military response from frightened humans with airspace treaties:
There is at present no way that an extraterrestrial race can officially enter into contact with humanity without breaking local or international laws, without being perceived as a threat or without appearing to support the politics and morals of that territory. To overcome all these obstacles they need an embassy. . . . If they were to land anywhere on Earth at present, extraterrestrials would first of all be invading airspace. Their uninvited presence would trigger automatic defense systems targeted at other countries. The panic both among the military and the public might paralyze continents.
Also the political kudos obtained by the host country from such an important presence might unfairly be perceived by the world community as tacit approval of that country. . . .
The only solution that will ensure this is an official embassy for extraterrestrials located in internationally neutral territory that guarantees the appropriate provisions of security and mutual respect. Whatever probability you assign to the existence of extraterrestrials, without an embassy the chances of making successful, beneficial contact reduces to nil.
The aliens have made a few suggestions, including a preference for a warm-weather locale, a privacy fence (to keep prying eyes off the pool) and elegant landscaping:
During their encounter with Raël in December 1973, the Elohim specified: Have a residence built in a pleasant country with a mild climate, with seven rooms always ready to receive guests, each with a separate bathroom, a conference room able to accommodate 21 people, a swimming pool and a dining room capable of seating 21 people.
This residence should be constructed in the middle of a park and should be protected from curious onlookers. The park should be entirely surrounded by walls to prevent anyone from seeing the residence and the swimming pool. The residence should be situated at a distance of at least 1,000 meters from the walls around the park. It will have a maximum of two stories and should be screened from the outskirts of the wall by a barrier of trees and bushes.
Install two entrances in the surrounding wall, one to the south and another on the northern side. The residence will also have two entrances.
There will be a terrace on the roof where a spacecraft of 12 meters in diameter may land. Access from that terrace to the interior is essential. The air space above and around the residence should not be under direct military or radar surveillance. You will try to ensure that the land where this residence is built — if possible larger than prescribed here — is treated as neutral territory by other nations and by the nation on whose territory it is located, by virtue of it being our embassy on Earth.
Jerusalem became the natural choice.
The children of Abraham are part-descendants of the Elohim, and it was especially with them that the Elohim retained contact as a way of progressively educating the rest of humanity. That is why all the main religions are waiting for their messengers to return to Jerusalem.
Jesus, who promised to return on a cloud, Muhammad who said he would return from the seven heavens on al-Buraq, along with Moses, Buddha and all the other prophets, who are presently living with the Elohim, will return with them to the embassy as foretold. This will demystify and yet vindicate Jerusalem’s spiritual role.
Jerusalem, the “city of peace,” has always been the privileged point of contact between the Elohim and humanity. Solomon’s Temple was the original embassy welcoming Yahweh, and the embassy which is now being prepared will be the Third Temple.
Peace in that region will be assured as people understand the origin of their religious beliefs and see their own individual prophet acting in harmony with the others. Humanity’s future world government will no doubt establish itself close by, an international university will be established to pass on the Elohim’s scientific and spiritual heritage and the people living in the region will have a renewed sense of purpose. Once again Jerusalem has a chance to shine and fulfill its role as spiritual center of humanity.
After some initial forays in the late 1970’s, an effort to secure land and the cooperation of Israeli officials was undertaken in earnest beginning in 1990, according to a timeline provided on the Raëlian Web site. The chronology peters out in 1993, but the Raëlians — and the aliens they follow — were experts at target marketing:
December 1979: The Elohim telepathically transmit the same dream to seven people: Rabbi Israel Abou Khatzira, Rabbi Mordekhai Shaarabi, Rabbi Halberstamm, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, Professor Leon Manitou Ashkenazi, President Menachem Begin, Chief Rabbi Ouiadia Yossef.
Dec. 31, 1979: Guided by the Elohim, Raël writes to each of them.
March 20, 1990: Raël, with the Elohim’s approval, decides to change the symbol of the Raëlian Religion, to ease the negotiations in anticipation for building the Embassy in Israel, and out of respect for the sensitivity of the victims of Nazism.
Nov. 8, 1991: The Jewish New Year; time has come to make the first official request for the Embassy to the State of Israel.
Dec. 5, 1991: Another request is made to Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Mordechai Eliyahou.
January, 1992: This Chief Rabbi acknowledges our official request for a piece of land for the embassy. Our case is being studied from then on.
Fall, 1993: Therefore, following the positive considerations granted by the State of Israel to the request for an Embassy for the Elohim, the peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which every one thought impossible, is now brewing.
Nov. 18, 1993: Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is handed another request for the embassy during the Montreal Jewish Convention.
Dec. 9, 1993: The Prime Minister advises the Raëlian Religion through his office, that he cannot accede to our request.
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By 1997, it had become clear to the Raëlians that Israel was not recognizing the opportunity being offered. So the Elohim opened up the search to all comers:
In a message given to Raël on Dec. 13, 1997, the Elohim explained that in accordance with their Covenant, they have given the State of Israel its chance, but now almost 20 years later, the State of Israel still has not recognized them. They cannot wait any longer, their new Covenant with the children of Israel is coming to an end and the Raëlian Religion can now address the request of ambassadorial status to any country in the world.
Once another country gives this authorization, Israel will be given a last chance to grant their authorization during a very limited period time of reflection, and if not, the Embassy will be built elsewhere and the people of David will lose their protection and disperse.
This decision was made with much regret, but the organization should have seen it coming. The final entry in the timeline, from 1993, notes a scheduling mix-up in the Raëlian plan for peace in the Middle East:
Dec. 13, 1993: Peace for Israel was scheduled to begin on this the day of the 20th anniversary of Yahweh’s encounter with his Prophet Raël.
Regrettably, peace is postponed.
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