Israelis are about to get overwhelmed with a summer of Glenn Beck. Depending on where a Jew holds on the theo-political spectrum, the very outspoken and entertaining media personality is either a fierce and articulate advocate for Israel and the Jewish people, or an anti-Semite who likes tea parties.
Mr. Beck has big plans for the Jewish state come this August. He is currently in Israel laying the groundwork for a mass pro-Israel happening entitled, "Restoring Courage", which is akin to the Restoring Honor event Beck held last August at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The purpose of last year’s DC rally was to "restore honor to America". This year's rally, which is to take place at the Southern Wall Excavation Site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, is an "Israel, you're not alone" type of event.
There's something about Glenn...
Placing the liberal/progressive camp aside, who accused Beck of an anti-Semitic depiction of George Soros and Reform Jews*, there is something about Glenn Beck that unsettles many Torah observant and secular Zionists, causing them to appropriately shift into a "respect and suspect" mode.
*[note: Beck apologized for his remarks]
Liberal critics of Beck spend a lot of time grasping at straws and casting him as a megalomaniac with a messianic complex, while his adherence to Mormonism has become an issue with some evangelical groups (is he a "Christian", or isn't he?).
But even the apolitical casual observer can't ignore Beck's radio and television content which offers a steady and perhaps disproportionate stream of prophetic programming , end-days advertising, and Christian apocalyptic scenarios.
Still, all of these criticisms seem to miss the mark, as Beck's powerful pro-Israel rhetoric more than dwarfs any concerns about his being fuelled by a fundamentalist end-days agenda. So what is it about Mr. Beck's style and direction which, frankly, makes Jews wary?
"Glenn Beck is taking a stand and standing for the good. This is righteous. My only concern, and it’s a big one, is the context in which he’s framing his position. Glenn Beck is making a religious case for the defense of Israel. And I take exception to that. While of course the religious argument can be made, the defense of Israel is not a religious issue. This is an issue of shared values. This is an issue of humanity, decency, and morality. The case for Israel is plain for agnostics and atheists as well. Beck should not risk giving the impression that if you don’t buy religious arguments, then there is no reason to stand in the defense of Israel."
To illustrate Geller's point, one need only listen to atheist Ayn Rand's defense of Israel in this clip from 1979.
You are cordially invited to an "Uber-Christian" event
The first of three events on the Restoration of Courage schedule is to be a program in Jerusalem, in "the place where Pontius Pilate was", said Beck. Beck describes it as an "Uber-Christian" event which may make some people "uncomfortable". Nevertheless, Beck encourages Christians to gather with Jewish people and "join us" in what is coined as "a real Christian event".
Yes, it appears Beck is on a faith-based mission, which would make him a "missionary" of sorts – although not the kind that should sound any alarm at Yad l'Achim.
Beck describes the main event scheduled for August 24th as being more "universal" in nature, but taking place in the area where jesus taught and overturned tables.
The Temple Mount is in whose hands?
On his current trip to Israel, Beck will be ascending The Temple Mount with Likud MK Danny Danon.
Beck is disturbed by the inscriptions in the Dome of the Rock which proclaim the Oneness of G-d and which reject the trinity and jesus as a deity. For some reason Beck finds the following inscription on the outside walls of the structure to be offensive to Christians:
"There is no god but God alone, without partner. Say: He is God, One, God the Everlasting, who has not begotten and has not been begotten."
Surely Mr. Beck is aware that daily Jewish prayers also proclaim:
"You are the Lord God in heaven and on earth, and in the most lofty heavens of heavens, Truly, You are the first and You are the last, and besides You there is no god."
We Jews have no desire to inspire and encourage those who aspire to transform the Temple Mount into a Christian holy site.
While many share Beck's views about the dangers of radical Islam, Torah observant as well as less observant Jews would feel terribly uncomfortable, in a theological sort of way, if they found themselves participating in a rally in which any speakers made traditional Islam's brand of monotheism an issue, as Beck has done on his show.
Beck also refers to Jerusalem as being "the center of our faith; our common faith", in reference to both Judaism and Christianity. Traditional Jews may find this problematic, as the concept runs quite contrary to halacha.
Existential loneliness: Rabbi Riskin makes a correction
Mr. Beck seems almost fixated on a perception of Israel being an isolated, besieged nation. Indeed, prominent rabbis, who appeared with pastors on Beck's May 20th "Are You Ready for 'Judgement Day'" show, had no problem joining him in a relentless lament of a lonely Israel. But just as Beck was about to push the empathy envelope too far, an alert Rabbi Shlomo Riskin amended his previous comments about Israel feeling isolated and set the record straight by harping on the benefits of being alone with G-d.
Jewish Israel feels that those who wish to sincerely stand with Israel should respect Israel's right to be alone.
The second-coming of the Holocaust
Glenn Beck is a master at portraying the Jews as a victims, and Israelis as being in deep, dark straits. Upon announcing the upcoming "Restoring Courage" event, he declared on the Fox News O'Reilly Factor that, "The Jews are in real trouble". Beck regularly implies that a second Holocaust is in the making (G-d forbid). Beck's concerns about the modern state of Israel appear to be sincere and heartfelt, but his presentation is problematic and inaccurate.
Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora need to ask themselves and Mr. Beck if this approach, or "scare tactic" is the best way to "restore courage" among supporters of Israel? Wouldn't it be more truthful to present Israel as secure and thriving nation which is fully aware of the challenges she faces? Although most Israelis may not wear G-d on their sleeves, in the same way evangelicals sport jesus, we are a people of great faith and hope.
A little intellectual honesty, please
Probably the most difficult point to drive home to Jews who reject Beck's overtures is that the Jewish community is currently lacking in eloquent, charismatic and creative voices who can properly articulate our case. That we're letting powerful and dynamic non-Jewish personalities like Glenn Beck and Pastor Hagee do it for us is, frankly, a source of embarrassment.
Rather than taking the lead, setting an example and having them follow us, it is we who are leaning on, and following, devout Christian personalities. This is an impossible position for a Jew to be in, as it puts us in spiritual jeopardy. Despite the apparent numerical and political advantages of having the "bible believing" Christian world align with the Jews, and raise their banner in defence of Israel, there are existential costs to consider.
Jewish Israel suggests that those who are close to Mr. Beck respectfully convey to him that many Torah observant as well as secular Zionists are naturally uncomfortable with the Christian theological direction and focus of some of his oratory. Perhaps a more universal, and inclusive approach to his stand with Israel - with an emphasis on morality rather than religious faith - would be more appropriate and could heal, rather than exacerbate, political rifts and divisiveness? This is especially important when Beck stands among Jews in the land of Israel, as our stance on religious freedom and expression differs from his.
As already mentioned Glenn Beck is currently in Israel. Danny Danon will be accompanying Beck to the Temple Mount. Arutz 7 has reported that Shas MK Nissin Zeev is co-hosting Beck's visit.
Today Beck addressed the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee.*
*[Note: this committee is headed by Danny Danon and in a recent series of reports we covered committee member Lia Shemtov's involvement in Russian-American Christian aliyah efforts.]
According to the Jerusalem Post , Beck outlined his plan for Israel advocacy based on communal outreach:
"If you go to a synagogue, reach out to a church. If you go to a church, reach out to a JCC. Say, will you watch this with me? After that we'll talk and eat and get to know one another."
As we post this report, there are those who share Jewish Israel's concerns who are present at a special reception for Mr. Beck. We will issue a follow-up to this report following that meeting.
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