This is a follow-up to our recent report, Why Jews should be uncomfortable with Glenn Beck. For a thoughtful and critical look at Beck's motives from an academic perspective, please view the piece penned by Jewish Israel's academic advisor, Professor Richard Landes, Glenn Beck's rallies: Pro-Israel or Pro-Apocalypse?
Anita Tucker, Jewish Israel's Community Affairs Advisor, was present at a reception held for Mr. Beck in the new community of Maale Zeitim. Anita is a recipient of the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism . She pioneered the Gush Katif settlement enterprise, was a successful farmer, and served as an articulate spokesperson against the "Disengagement” from Gush Katif. She continues in her efforts to build and develop Eretz Yisrael.
Anita did not have the opportunity to address Glenn Beck directly, but in the hour she spent at the reception she was able to speak to a number of philanthropists, activists, reporters and politicians, as well as the people who were responsible for bringing Beck to Israel (the very same people who brought us Mike Huckabee).
Here's Anita Tucker's take:
Although a certain unease about Beck was palpable among a few attendees, I consistently heard the same messages:
The complete no-questions-asked enthusiasm, without any apparent doubts, among the US right wing Orthodox leadership (“mahchers”), was astounding to me. Like Beck, they, too, perceive Israel as a sinking ship and present him as our PR savior/mashiach. They are pushing hard for the "Restoring Courage" event in Jerusalem on 8/24 and are doing all they can to make sure Beck's events will be successful. I had the opportunity to speak with Odelya Jacobs and Dr. Joseph Frager who said they were in Israel to help Beck and Co. connect with "our people".
Hostile feelings on Holy Ground
Glenn Beck's remarks at the reception were highly personal, passionate, and religious in nature. The speech can be heard in full on Yishai Fleisher's podcast. Beck referred to the Temple Mount as God's throne. Upon his tour of various holy sites, Beck reported feeling "hostile" – a term he used three times. That is until a friend helped him sort out his feelings, and then he realized what he was hearing and feeling over and over again was, "Take your sandals off. This is sacred ground".
Beck described Jerusalem as being the axis on which the world turns and that "the whole world will either be saved or come undone because of this patch of land". He said the "message" for the world was "return back to the original place where G-d spoke to Abraham". He closed by saying "Pray for protection and for his will to be done for 8/24" (referring to the date of Beck’s "Restoring Courage" rally).
Yishai Fleisher, who emceed the reception, relayed a very powerful and personal story. In a gesture to Beck, who is Mormon, Fleisher made mention of how he was engaged in some high-risk jogging and, as the sun was setting, he stopped near the Mormon University to recite Shemonei Esrei. He goes on to describe a significant conversation he had with some Arabs who confronted him.While a good number of those who take in Beck's remarks will be moved - Fleisher describes Beck's words as "a sanctification of G-d's name" and "a glorification of Jerusalem," - others with sensitive hearing and a sense of history may detect possible apocalyptic undertones. Last Friday's Jerusalem Post also seemed to pick up on Beck's tone by running the ominous headlines, Glenn Beck warns against 'vaporization of Israel'.
Moshe Feiglin and others in the Manhigut Yehudit faction of the Likud Party opted out of the Beck reception. In a widely published article that's sparked a fierce debate, Feiglin explains his reasoning. Excerpt:
"The problem is not Glenn Beck's beliefs. Beck is a good person who believes in what he is doing. The problem is that the most loyal Jewish public is giving him its support without thoroughly checking his message. They are unwittingly abetting a very gentle and heartwarming type of modern crusade."
Losing our voice: it isn't funny
One of the consequences of having accepted enormous amounts of evangelical funding and of having relied on gentile lovers of Israel to speak for us, is that "activist atrophy" and "fundraising fatigue" has set in. Our very best hasbara experts can no longer present a challenging and effective case to their own people, because it's simply too difficult to respond to the inquiring and critical Jewish mind. Likud MK Danny Danon let the cat out of the bag in a recent interview with TIME magazine:
"I do a lot of fundraising in the United States," Danon told me one afternoon last fall over coffee. "The Jews give, but it's always, 'Yes, but.''' Here he grinned. "With the evangelicals," he said, "there's never a 'but.'"
Danon's been on an illuminating roll. The Jerusalem Post made literal headlines out of this quote by the MK:
"... if we didn't have someone like Glenn Beck we would have had to invent someone like him."
Perhaps it’s time we Jews got a little inventive and stood up, found our voice and learned to walk again – before we're forced to.
It would be ideal if Israel's hasbara experts and community leaders knew how to wisely use non-Jewish voices like Beck's without selling their souls. Why can't the Jewish powers-that-be give Gentile supporters firm ground rules and politely insist that they respect Jewish sensitivities and tradition on interfaith matters? Faith based events with christ-centered individuals and groups – no matter how pro-Israel - are simply out of bounds. A little Jewish pride and assertiveness would go a long way, as it would surely separate the sincere Gentiles who have no ulterior agenda from those with evangelizing, prophetic or eschatological aspirations.
Perhaps we're dealing with the following problems:
A time to think and remember
What is also disturbing is that even the most delicately handled and thoughtful criticism of Jewish dependence on gentile sources is dismissed as being an attack on our Christian friends and automatically draws out legions of absolute and unquestioning Jewish loyalists. But those Jews are missing the point, as nobody is really accusing Beck of anything terrible. We are, however, asking Jews to turn inward and to begin to examine how their relationship and dependence on devout and supportive Christians is eroding, weakening and challenging Judaism and the Jewish state spiritually.
It's the 17th of Tammuz. The three weeks are upon us, a period in which we remember events related to the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Among the tragedies commemorated are those directly related to avodah zarah, blasphemy and desecration.
If this uncomfortable debate surrounding Glenn Beck's plans for 8/24 in Jerusalem can challenge us Jews to think critically, and to remember who we are, where we are standing, and the obligations incumbent upon us, then we can truly thank Mr. Beck.
Wishing Am Yisrael a meaningful Fast.
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