Raelians want to establish ET embassy in Jerusalem

Tel Aviv, Israel - On November 8, the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published a report on the 40th anniversary of SETI, the institute whose stated purpose is to "explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe".

While participating in a conference celebrating SETI and its search for 'intelligent life beyond our own planet', Professor Sergei Yazeb of the Academy of Sciences in Russia, where the conference was held, put forward a startling proposal.

In a report distributed to all conference participants, Yazeb detailed six attributes of our solar system that distinguish it from all other discovered solar systems.

"Today, according to the knowledge we have," concluded Dr. Yazeb, "we don't have any other explanation of the founding of the solar system, other than by the intervention of a superior civilization".

Meanwhile, in a quiet Tel Aviv coffee shop, Israeli Kobi Drori, a guide for the Raelian movement within Israel, sips hot chocolate while calmly describing much the same thing.

"We're talking," he says, "of the third hypothesis on how life was created on Earth. The first is by an Almighty God; the second is the theory of evolution."

The third, according to the 60,000-strong Raelian movement, is that life on Earth was created by scientists belonging to a superior, alien civilization, who created man "in their own likeness".

"On December 13, 1973," explains Drori, "a young French journalist called Claude Vorilhon saw a flying saucer. It landed close to him, and steps came down."

Out of the spaceship, he relates, came a human-looking figure, roughly 130cm in height, who spoke to Vorilhon in perfect French, explaining that it "knew all the languages of the world". For the next six days Vorilhon and the alien met once a day for an hour, during which time the alien explained why Vorilhon had been chosen.

"It had chosen him for two very important missions," says Drori, "First, to tell the people of the world who they really are. And second, our creators want to come back and meet us. But they respect us so much that they won't come unless they are invited. And how do we invite them? By building them an embassy."

Renamed "Raƫl" by the alien visitor, Vorilhon immediately set about establishing the movement, which today claims to have members in 92 countries worldwide.

According to the Raelian movement, information in each major religion's key text offers clues as to this "true" creation of man. This, says Drori, is especially present in the Jewish Torah, or Old Testament. Here, he says, distortion over the centuries has hidden the true meanings of many descriptions.

For example, he says, the Hebrew word for god - Elohim - actually means 'Messengers', or 'those who came from the sky' and does not refer to a notion of one supreme God, with which the word has become associated. The Biblical image of angelic creatures arriving on wings from the sky is, he says, just a centuries-old misinterpretation of the beings who arrived in a spacecraft.

Similarly, another Hebrew word for God, he says, is Adonai, a plural rather than a singular, which can be translated as "Lords". This, believe the Raelians, points clearly to the existence of humankind's true creators, to whom they still refer as the Elohim.

While stories abound of the Raelians' alleged 'cult' activities, Drori is keen to point out that Raelian members simply intend to "inform, without convincing".

Every Friday near a small park on Tel Aviv's trendy Sheinkin Street, they set up a small stand - complete with pictures of UFOs and green aliens with almond-shaped eyes - and try to engage in dialogue with passersby.

It is, Drori admits, not a movement "for everyone", though he feels it is easier to talk to Jewish people, because they generally have some knowledge of the Bible, from which the Raelians have picked out a large part of their supporting material. Indeed, the Jewish people, says Drori, have a very special part to play in the aims of the Raelian movement.

"Everyone else," he explains, "was created in laboratories. But Jewish people are a combination of the Elohim and man" - they are part Eloha, part human - "so they feel more emotional toward the Jewish people". This, he continues, is why they want to build their embassy in Jerusalem: "To be among their children, their sons." This, to an outsider, stirs up Orwellian overtones: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Currently, work on the Elohim Embassy in Jerusalem cannot proceed, since the Israeli government has not granted extra-territoriality to the land on which they propose to build.

"Up until now," says Drori, "we've asked more than seven times. We got a 'no' from Rabin, and Barak said he didn't have time to deal with it. From Sharon's office, we received a message saying that 'we shouldn't be afraid we're forgotten,' and our request has been passed on to an official department at the Prime Minister's Office."

"In our Israeli army," he continues, "there's a special unit whose goal is to search for extraterrestrial [ET] knowledge. They know it's there, but like many governments in the world, they hide it. Someone in our government knows."

The Raelians were, he says, contacted by officials in the Lebanese government, who offered to grant them permission to build their embassy in Lebanon. The offer, however, came on the condition that they did not display their symbol on top of the building (a Star of David, containing a swirling pattern). The Raelians declined the offer.

Despite the controversy surrounding followers of the movement - particularly in the light of their 2002 claims that they had successfully cloned a human child, who now also lives in Israel - Kobi Drori speaks with conviction about his work.

"Our movement," he says, "can be the bridge between Muslims, Jews and Christians. We are teaching for a peaceful life. It can be the bridge for real peace, for real understanding of our origins."

In the last three years, he says, they have started to establish branches of the movement in Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and next summer, they will hold a conference between "Israeli and Arab Raelians".

"It will be a small bridge," he says, "to show other people we can live in peace and harmony ... At our seminars, I meet people from Arab countries and I hug them like my brothers. I feel closer to them than to other Raelians. Our Website," he adds, "is also available in Arabic".