In the shadow of the Temple Mount on Wednesday, at a podium erected in the shallow area below the Al Aqsa Mosque and a stone’s throw from the Western Wall, Glenn Beck took the stage. In America his theme was “Restoring Honor,” but in Jerusalem he was “Restoring Courage.” The third of three rallies held across Israel this week, Beck had originally hoped to hold his finale on the Temple Mount itself, but since an event there triggered the Second Intifada a decade ago, the Israeli security forces requested that he restore courage a bit farther away.
“This place is so modest, so small,” he said, warming up a crowd of about 600. "It is where God first chose to reveal himself to mankind.”
In Safra Square, a large plaza in front of City Hall, there were overflow seats for a few thousand more, perched in front of a Jumbo-tron live feed that occasionally sputtered and froze. Yellow satin flags with Beck's logo atop a scene of Jerusalem fluttered in the wind. Empty seats were everywhere and security was tight.
“I stand for Israel,” said Michigan resident Stephanie Homan, 26, wearing a delicate cross on her Restoring Courage T-shirt. “I came to see the holy sites and be with the Jews. I’m a fan of Israel more than Glenn Beck. But, I mean, I believe in values more than a single person. I feel like he’s kind of our spokesperson.” It was her first time in Israel, and there were many others like her. But there were even more kippot in the audience, and several dozen ultra-Orthodox men and women.
Three Druze men from a northern Israeli village stood bemused to the side. “We are Likudniks,” said one, handing over a card. He meant the party of Benjamin Netanyahu; the right in Israeli politics. “We don’t really know [Glenn Beck] here,” said a Jewish woman named Jaelle, a backpack slung over her long-sleeve T-shirt, her skirt grazing her Naot sandals. But, she noted, he had spoken out about terror attacks, especially a horrific set of murders perpetrated against the Fogels, an Orthodox settler family in which several children were killed. “In the end, I thought, I had to see him. I wanted to see who he was. If he was very, very right-wing, he would be an anti-Semite, no?”
It seemed she hadn’t heard he’d been accused exactly of that. Earlier in the week there had been other rumbles in Israel about him, when he made disparaging comments about the thousands of young housing activists who have been demanding that Israel return to a social-welfare state. He called them Communists and implied that they might have been infiltrated by Muslim radicals.
“I can’t teach Israel anything,” Beck said from the stage. “In Israel there is more courage in one small square mile than there is in the whole of Europe.” He shouted that Israel shouldn’t be accused of human-rights abuses, when across the border in Syria they are murdering their own children. “Israel is here because the God of Abraham keeps his covenant!” Standing ovation.
In the back, a black-hatted chabad student who declined to give his name clapped. He had a pile of t’fillen with him, hoping to entice men to pray and place the black box on their heads and arms. “He comes off a little extreme,” he said, explaining that he learned his English in Massachusetts. “But he seems on the ball. I’m very happy he’s here. Israel belongs to the Jews. We shouldn’t give to the Arabs. The more you give, they more they will ask.”
"The world is burning," Beck warned the crowd. "Whatever we've grown to think is solid and strong and durable is under siege. The threats are mounting. The evil is growing. Darkness is falling."
At a smaller rally on Monday night, Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie’s dad) stood with Beck. That event had a Holocaust focus, featuring a survivor and his many grandchildren. “I feel complete contempt for anyone not intelligent enough to see that the media propaganda portraying the Palestinians as victims endangers the state of Israel,” said Voight. “We are facing a new holocaust, and people of all faiths must demand that the truth be heard. The Palestinian radicals have only one prayer on their lips: To remove every Jew from Israel.” He also got a standing ovation.
But beneath the Temple Mount, there were few dignitaries. An AIPAC trip with several U.S. congressmen was in town, but they all stayed away. Jaelle, the backpack-wearing Israeli, seemed a bit concerned that Beck is not always well received in the States.
“Who will stand with Israel, who will stand with 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,” Beck boomed.
Leaning against a column near the back was Didi Remez, an activist from Tel Aviv wearing an “Iran nuclear facilities-STAFF” T-shirt (irony). “We have enough problems here without Glenn Beck making us a forward bunker in the clash of civilizations,” he said. “He’s here on his own agenda. Most Israelis have rejected it.”
Indeed, a petition had gone out earlier in the week advising even ultra-Orthodox rabbis not to attend.
Beck started talking about swastikas in Cairo as a young couple walked in to catch the last few minutes. “He’s some crazy Christian,” said the woman. (Beck is a devout Mormon.*)
Before long, the event drew to a close. As a singer began to croon "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof, the crowd filed out.
*This post has been corrected to remove a reference to Beck "actually" being a devout Mormon. In fact, Mormonism classifies itself within Christianity.