The Roman ampitheater hosts some of the wildest concerts in Israel, but it rarely sees a crowd as excitable as this one. After all, this was no mere musical act, but the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck.
“While there may not be a political solution, the good news is the God of Israel ‘aint running for office,” he declared to rapturous applause Sunday.
Don’t worry about trifles like diplomatic processes and peace plans, went his message. After all, the entire world is “reentering the age of miracles of God.”
Beck declared that the Christians gathered there should “not only love Israel but we love the Jewish people as they are.”
The former Fox News talk-show host was joined on stage by the American evangelical icon John Hagee, who, in a twist on Kennedy’s famous “ich bin en Berliner” comment had the crowd chanting “ani yisraeli,” which means: “I am an Israeli.”
Beck last year organized a huge event in Washington called Restore Honor, bringing together thousands of conservatives. This week he is running Restore Courage, a similar concept with a pro-Israel focus. It will culminate on Wednesday with a rally in Jerusalem — which some Palestinians claim could prove inflammatory.
Today was the first fixture, a rally attended by 3,000 people, mostly Americans who travelled to Israel especially for the Beck events. It took place at Caesarea Amphitheater, an impressive venue built in the first century by Herod the Great.
An hour before the start, almost everyone was seated, a feat of punctuality unheard of in Israel. People marveled at the amphitheater watched the sun set in front of them over the Mediterranean, chanted and cheered.
“We’ve got courage yes we do, we’ve got courage how about you?” yelled people in one bloc of seats, pointing to another which repeated the chant and passed it on. Then they did the wave. After that it was time to watch the live broadcasts going out on Glenn Beck TV, and followed at 1,200 “viewing parties” across the world.
The presenter mentioned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lives in Caesarea and the crowd exploded with applause. The most enthusiastic reaction of the evening came a few minutes after Beck’s big entrance when he said: “No matter what our governments may say, we are not our governments.”
Most of Beck’s soliloquies were emotional declarations of his love for Israel, religious teachings, and tellings and retellings against-all-odds story of how he, with God’s help, pulled the event together. He cried on close to a dozen occasions, and joked that he needed to drink extra water in the heat for his tears.
Beck for the most part avoided references to politics or discussion of his well-known disdain for the two-state solution. This was his hardcore fan base that needed no convincing. Darlene Petty, a middle-aged human resources manager from Florida, told the Forward that she had borrowed from her retirement fund to attend as she “felt it was going to be historical.” Louis Royas, a nurse from Connecticut has been “working non-stop for two and-a-half months” and taken money from his children’s’ education fund. It was worth it to deliver a message to Israelis that they are “not alone,” he said.
Hagee was invited to the podium and said that the Jews are “still the apple of God’s eye, still the chosen people, still the covenant people.”
While most of the Israeli rabbinic establishment steered clear of the event, American-born Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, attended and spoke. He told the crowd that the event was “magnificent” and “transformative,” and praised Beck’s “courage to love us in our otherness.”
The few Israelis in the audience felt it was a shame that more did not attend. “People told me I’m crazy for coming,” said Seth Greenberg, a high-tech manager from Ranana. “A lot of Israelis are afraid to assert themselves and think it will cause us problems, but I think the time that people like the underdog has passed and we need to be proud because the world loves a winner.”
Contact Nathan Jeffay at firstname.lastname@example.org