JERUSALEM — Glenn Beck brought 2,000 people, including protestors and plenty of press, to Jerusalem on Wednesday night, as he brought the Restoring Courage tour of Israel to an end. Gathered at the Davidson Center, a few steps away from the Western Wall and Temple Mount, Glenn Beck’s final showing had a huge crowd buzzing with excitement.
But not everyone.
Arab members of Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, warned that Beck’s rally at the southern wall excavations site could spark violence in Jerusalem. MK Ahmed Tibi called Beck a “bizarre, neo-fascist comedian” and accused those involved in his event of “dancing to Beck’s flute playing and rejoicing to every outrageous word against Arabs and Muslims.”
Beck himself has been described as anti-Semitic, a fundamentalist Christian extremist, and most often a lunatic by many in the media and religious leaders across the spectrum.
During the rally, however, Beck did not utter one word against Arabs or Muslims.
Instead, the former Fox News personality called upon unity among all faiths. Beck read a letter from a Muslim sheikh from Hebron, Sheikh Khader al-Jabari, congratulating Beck for organizing a rally consisting of Jews and Christians. “Israeli and Muslim are both children of Abraham and we are all children of one God,” Sheikh Jabari wrote to Beck. “May we truly walk arm in arm in peace together and bring our united God, the God of the universe, to the entire world in peace.”
Indeed, one major theme that repeated itself throughout the rally was Jerusalem as a city for people of all faiths. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated, “We must not derail from our destiny, from respecting other religions,” and “that there is room in Jerusalem for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the founding chief rabbi of the Efrat community outside of Jerusalem, who opened the event, said, “We must work toward a Jerusalem of peace for all religions.”
The event also featured “Restoring Courage” awards that were given to Israelis chosen for performing acts that strengthened co-existence between Arabs and Jews. Israeli supermarket magnate, Rami Levy was awarded for building supermarkets that have become meeting points for Jewish-Arab shopping co-existence in the West Bank. Another award was given to the Jewish and Arab owners of the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, which was blown up by a female Palestinian suicide bomber in 2003.
The main objects of criticism during Beck’s rally were Europe and U. N. diplomats, whom Beck described as bureaucrats with cold hearts.
While Beck’s visit elicited a range of responses, from politicians, news commentators and social activists, there were those who were rather blasé about his visit.
Speaking to an Israeli security guard, Iyov, outside the event, I asked him what he thought of Beck.
“Who is Glenn Beck?” was his response.
I proceeded to explain, and Iyov interrupted me, saying, “I thought this event was for Angelina Jolie’s father.”
“Oh, you mean John Voigt?”
To the average Israeli, not so interested in politics, the one person that perhaps garnered the most attention from Beck’s Restoring Courage rally, was Voigt, who was a featured speaker at several of Beck’s events. And that is simply because the American actor is the father of Angelina Jolie.
For many Israelis, Beck’s visit did not ruffle a feather. And that’s because they don’t know who the man is.
And for others who have heard his name, but do not view him as a dangerous man, a crazy prophet or the only true friend of Israel, Beck is just another visitor to the Holy Land.
As one Israeli journalist at the event told me, “he wasn’t my cup of tea, but I listened anyway.”
At the end of the event those who came staunchly supporting Beck, left elated. Those who protested outside the rally left hating Beck even more. And those who were confused by his real intentions for the rally were not any more enlightened after the event was over.
His mention of God’s plan for humanity, using terms such as responsibility and rights, bewildered many as he did not elaborate what that plan would entail.
In general, Beck’s visit proved to be a distraction for everyone, a distraction from serious issues that are currently plaguing Israel, including the continuing rocket warfare against 1million civilians in Israel’s south.
(Anav Silverman, originally from Maine, is an educator at Hebrew University’s Secondary School of Education in Jerusalem. She writes for Sderot Media Center: SderotMedia.com, the Center for Near East Policy Research and The Huffington Post.)