(INDEPENDENT) — From the moment it opened in 1937, the soaring art deco façade of the Alhambra cinema in Jaffa became one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, its 1,000-seat auditorium patronized by Jews, Arabs and British Mandate officials alike.

Now, after decades of neglect, the complex has been renovated as the first public Middle East centre for the Church of Scientology, the controversial movement founded by writer and explorer L Ron Hubbard whose followers include John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

From the multi-media consoles in the foyer, through the dozen lecture halls in the academy upstairs, to the 450-seat auditorium beneath the ornamental moulded plaster ceiling, to the replica of Michaelangelo’s mosaic in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome on the colonnaded roof terrace, the three-storey, 60,000-square-foot, multi-million-pound monolith is a gleaming, hi-tech cathedral to the teachings of Hubbard and his successor, David Miscavige. In one corner there is even a room designed as Hubbard’s office in Middle Eastern style – a tribute to the founder, who died in 1986.

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