Conservative pundit Glenn Beck put the finishing touches on his "Restoring Courage" tour of Israel with a rally today near the disputed holy sites of Jerusalem's Old City, and the event, like all things Glenn Beck, appears to have been a spectacle. Beck's visit has proven so controversial in Israel that the political left and right have forged a rare alliance to oppose the former Fox News personality. While Israel's far-right is supportive of Beck's "unabashedly pro-Israel, anti-Muslim rhetoric," the AP notes, "religious Jews are worried he is here to spread the Christian gospel" (at the sacred Western Wall, no less) while "dovish Israelis reject Beck's support for West Bank Jewish settlements and his criticism of peace efforts." Today's event attracted over 1,000 Beck supporters, "mostly Evangelical Christians from the U.S.," according to Yedioth Ahronoth (photos showed lots of empty seats). Let's take a look at some of the highlights:
- Scathing Commentaries The left-wing newspaper Haaretz has been charging hard at Beck all week, running articles in which American Jews and an expert on Christian Zionism warn Israel not to be friends with the Christian commentator. The paper's live blog of Wednesday's rally might more accurately be described as frequently updated sarcasm on Beck's "supportarama roadshow." Take this entry, which begins by quoting Beck: "'To overcome fear we just need one thing: Courage. Truth and courage.' Er, that's two things." Or this post (Beck's words are in quotes):
And so on and so on: 'Who will stand with Israel, who will stand the Jewish people? Condemn me, target me. I will stand with the Jewish people and when they come to round us up again, I will say: take me first.' Will he rend his shirt and bare his breast too?
- Glowing Commentaries In its write-up of the rally, the right-wing settler news site Arutz Sheva calls the event "inspirational."
- A Dramatic Entrance and Exit Before appearing before the crowd for the first time, Beck noted offstage that Jerusalem was where man first walked the earth, adding "We always come back to God, and we always come back to Jerusalem." The Haaretz bloggers observe that "it took a minute from the cheap seats at the back to realize that the narrator of the history of the world currently underway, to acoustic guitar/church bells/Hollywood trailer muzak, is the man himself." Talking Points Memo adds that Beck walked out to the blowing of the Shofar (a ram's horn used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and left to a rendition of "Sabbath Prayer" from the musical Fiddler On The Roof.
- Praise From a Sheikh David Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel, read a letter that a Hebron sheikh had sent to Beck applauding him for arranging the rally and informing him that "my heart and soul feel connected to you."
- 'Restoring Courage' Awards Beck gave out an award to the Fogel family, who were killed in their West Bank home by Palestinians in March. Beck also bestowed awards on Maxim, Jewish-Arab restaurant in Haifa that was targeted by a suicide bombing in 2003, and on a supermarket entrepreneur named Rami Levy for his charity. Beck proclaimed, "In Israel, there is more courage in one soldier than in the combined and cold hearts of every bureaucrat at the United Nations."
- A Penchant for Prophesy According to Haaretz, Beck told the crowd that he predicted the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. housing crash, and the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Israel.
- Protests A group of left-wing protesters outside the rally held banners saying "Glenn Beck, go home," according to the AP. Likud lawmaker Danny Danon defended Beck, stating, "We are proud of this relationship and not embarrassed by it. Anyone who supports Israel in such a brave way must be supported."
In this clip from today's rally, Beck declares, "When the world turns its back on Israel and the Jewish people, the world turns its back on human rights. Without the Jewish people, humanity would never know that every single individual life has dignity, that every single life is sacred."