Rep. Katherine Harris, the Republican best known for her controversial role in the Florida recount battle, is at the center of a new flap — over a report that she pressed the state to treat trees with Holy Water.
Harris reportedly helped associates of the Kabbalah Centre to get officials in Florida's agriculture department to test the water as a potential curative to the canker disease then plaguing orange groves. At the time, in 2001, Harris was still serving as Florida's secretary of state, the same post she had held during the post-election fight in 2000.
According to a July 6 report in the Orlando Sentinel, at Harris's urging, state researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test Celestial Drops — a product "promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its 'improved fractal design,' 'infinite levels of order' and 'high energy and low entropy.'"
Harris reportedly recommended Celestial Drops to the state's agriculture department after learning about the product from Rabbi Abe Hardoon, now head of the West Boca Kabbalah Learning Centre. Harris denies having known that the product was associated with the Kabbalah Centre.
In a statement to the Forward, Harris asserted that she decided to recommend Celestial Drops after being told that "Israeli scientists" had produced the product. She made a statement: "I deeply value Israeli technology, as it helped save my family's groves through drip irrigation technology decades ago, which is why I forwarded the information to the Department of Agriculture, as I frequently do with constituent interests and requests."
The Sentinel obtained memos and letters detailing a six-month discussion among scientists and officials over the Celestial Drops. Among the documents was a warning from Wayne Dixon, the state's chief of entomology, nematology and plant pathology, in which he declared that the "product is a hoax and not based on any credible known science."
The testing of Celestial Drops was a departure from standard protocol; the state usually demanded that producers test products themselves, Sentinel reporter Jim Stratton wrote. He added that Celestial Drops was likely the same as the Kabbalah Centre's highly publicized Kabbalah Water, which sells for several dollars a bottle and is purportedly blessed. "The traits attributed to so-called Kabbalah water — 'elegant crystalline structures' and 'high energy and low entropy' — are virtually identical to those of Celestial Drops," he wrote.
According to the Sentinel report, when asked if Celestial Drops was actually Kabbalah Water, Hardoon responded, "I can't really give you that information."
According to a report in Radar Magazine, the marketers of Kabbalah Water assert that it has healing powers, including the ability to cure cancer, AIDS and SARS.
Hardoon would not respond to a media inquiry from the Forward, referring the question to the Kabbalah Centre's public relations officer, Lisa Kessler.
Kessler told the Forward, "I don't know about that and cannot comment on that." She said she would pass on the inquiry to someone who could comment, but no one from the Kabbalah Centre called back by press time.