By Phyllis Singer
Popular radio show host and former Fox News personality Glenn Beck was in Israel last week to host his Restoring Courage rally. His appearance garnered support from Christian Zionists and right-wing Israelis and American Jews living here, but evoked criticism from the Left – in both Israel and the United States.
In May, about two months after the Fogel family had been massacred in Itamar, Beck announced on his Fox News program that he would host the Restoring Courage rally and urged viewers and radio show listeners to show support for Israel by joining him on the trip. An estimated 1,000 people (some estimates said 2,000), primarily Christian Zionists, accompanied Beck. Among the group was film star Jon Voigt, who has visited Israel numerous times and is a strong supporter of the Jewish state.
Three public programs took place as part of the trip. The first, “The Courage to Love,” was an ecumenical gathering Aug. 21 at the amphitheater in Caesarea. Among the speakers joining Beck on the podium was Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat and former rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City. Amid criticism of his participation at the gathering in Caesarea and the main event in Jerusalem on Aug. 24, Riskin praised Beck and his followers for standing with Israel: “We are grateful for your courage to love us, stand by us, in time of our great need and danger, as rockets fall on Southern towns.”
On Aug. 22, a program in remembrance of the Holocaust, “Courage to Remember” was held at the old train station in Jerusalem.
The main event, the Restoring Courage rally, took place Aug. 24 at the Southern wall below the Temple Mount (part of the Davidson Center complex). More than 1,000 people gathered there, with another estimated crowd of 2,000 watching at large-screen TV broadcast at Safra Square, the location of the Jerusalem municipality. In addition to keynote speaker Beck, participants at the rally included Riskin, popular Israeli singer Dudu Fisher, who led the crowd in “Hatikvah,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Likud Member of Knesset Danny Danon.
In his speech, Beck continued to praise Israel for its courage. “Ín Israel, there is more courage in one small square mile than in all of Europe,” he said. “In Israel, there is more courage in one soldier than in the combined cold hearts of all the bureaucrats in the United Nations.”
His main message was that Israel is right and critics are wrong.
During his speech, Beck announced that he is forming a global movement that will seek to defend Israel from the United Nations and human rights organizations around the world.
“So-called leaders of the world talk about human rights” while they abuse the concept’s meaning by condemning Israel and ignoring dictatorships that murder their own people. The aim of his new movement, Beck said, will be to “take back the phrase ‘human rights’ and put it back where it belongs.”
As interesting as Beck’s speeches were the reactions to his appearances here. Left-wing critics, including Peace Now that staged a protest outside the area where Wednesday’s rally took place, lambasted Beck as anti-Semitic, a self-proclaimed prophet and a threat.Writing in Ha’aretz, Yossi Sarid, former member of the Knesset and leader of the left-wing Meretz Party,Yossi Sarid said: “The visit ended yesterday, the circus is folding its tent and moving elsewhere. Let’s pray it will not return soon. Mr. Beck, don’t come back. We’re not short of dangerous wackos here.”
Interestingly, not all left-wingers were critical. MK Einat Wilf, a member of the Independence faction in the Knesset (the break-away faction from Labor) said, “If people stand with Israel, we should stand with them.” And Alan Dershowitz, wrote in a column The Huffington Post: “I disagree with much of Beck’s politics and with virtually all of his conspiracy theorizing … Yet I admire his courage … I believe him when he says, ‘If the world goes down the road of dehumanizing Jews again, then count me a Jew and come for me first.’”
And right-wing supporters stood by him.
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I find it hard to believe it’s time for me to say Happy New Year to the Cincinnati Jewish community, but the next article I will write will not be published until after Rosh Hashanah. So best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
Phyllis Singer, former editor/general manager of The American Israelite, and her husband, Allen, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone in Jerusalem at 566-9808. She and Allen always enjoy hearing from Cincinnatians visiting Israel.