Beyond the Cusp

August 24, 2011

Israel, Glenn Beck, and Jews in General

Glenn Beck’s Restoring Courage Tour in Israel, a kind of follow-up to his Restoring Honor Tour of last August with some very marked differences, is raising all kinds of reactions from abject horror, to deep suspicion, to warm welcomes, to thankful appreciation, but almost none are neutral. The one prediction I can make is Mr. Beck’s Restoring Courage Tour will end up better received by Jews in Israel than by the Jews in the United States. According to Glenn Beck and his team of organizers, the Restoring courage Tour is not about restoring courage to Israelis, quoting Glenn, “They have enough already” and “We could learn about courage from the Israelis.” These were two of the sentiments he expressed when talking about this tour during his radio show and in interviews. What I will try to do in this article is two-fold, explain some of the reactions as best I can understand from the different sectors in Israeli society, and end with my hopes and feelings about his efforts.

In every group in Israel, for this and virtually everything else, you will find a group of Rabbis somewhere near the center, this is just a fact and nothing can be inferred by the phrase, “including some important Rabbis and religious Jews,” as you could add this phrase to almost any controversial subject for every point of view. Rabbis, as a group, are no different than the Jews they represent, and like those Jews, you get two Rabbis and you will have at least three opinions (old Jewish adage). So, we will simply assume that there is a core of Rabbis supporting each group as well as some MKs (Ministers of the Knesset) and any other various groups of Jewish society.

The first group is those who think this is wonderful and will point to the blessings given to each show by a Rabbi at the start; even the show Glenn had claimed was suited mostly for Christians. Those who support Glenn Beck’s efforts seem to express the idea that finally we are not alone. Alone is a feeling Jews have had for longer than we can remember. Some are accusing these Jews of grabbing at hope where they will eventually find betrayal and deceit. The answer to this charge has been to refer to the apparent honesty and heart felt emotion generated by Glenn in his excitement and the fact he has thrown his entire being into trying to put aside any differences and simply tell the Jews in general and the Israelis in particular, in us you have an honest and true friend who will walk where you walk and stand where you stand. Mr. Beck has not held anything back except he is not falling into tears though all have probably noticed the moments he pauses to push them back. Glenn Beck fans will inform us that Glenn crying means that his heart is beating and he is most likely awake. The Israelis and Jews who are welcoming and accepting Glenn’s message at face value are hoping this will be the formal beginning of a new age for Jews where we are no longer going to face the perils of the slings and arrows of the World alone. Many, even among those who are untrusting, will have to admit such a development would be welcomed.

Then we have those who claim that Glenn Beck is a charlatan who really only wishes to force Christianity upon those unsuspecting and foolish Jews who are falling once again for the Sirens’ Song. They are suspicious of every Christian who comes offering friendship and acts with kindness and says sweet words as this has been the story a multitude of times past. Each and every so-called Christian who came to save the Jews has meant to save the Jews if they accept Jesus, but not if they stubbornly cling to their Judaism. They remember the pogroms, the inquisitions, the purges, the endless times Jews grabbed that one suitcase that was always packed with clothes and a few precious objects, the prayer book (Siddur), the Tefillin (Phylacteries), the Mezuzah for the next door in the next place, the family Bible, and a few coins and clothing and fled as the torches and screaming closed in on what was now their last home. Four thousand years of fleeing, oft times like a leaf before the wind, other times fleeing and continuing to run long after those who were chasing had stopped and returned to their homes, because in such times, how far is far enough? They are suspicious and with very, very good reason. Only with time, patience, and the eventual proof that Glenn Beck is different will these Jews lower their guard. It will not be soon and will take great effort and one slip, one wrong word, and gaining their trust will have to start again from the first step. Let us hope Glenn is up to a very long walk.

There will be those who will claim that the only thing motivating Glenn Beck is the riches he will glean from these song and dance performances he is putting on. They will question his sincerity, his motivations, his every word, his every act, and should Glenn Beck gain any riches from his Restoring Courage events, they will gloat and say they had told us it was all for the money. Perhaps donating the majority of any monies taken in by these events and some parts of the profits from Glenn Beck’s GBTV will turn aside these cynical accusations, but as with those who suspect Mr. Beck’s motives, many of these cynics will never be turned. Some would even have suspected Mr. Beck made some monetary gain in some way even if his performances had been made, as he once said he was willing to do, solely to empty chairs and he stood on the stages totally alone. Suspicions are a difficult thing to purge from any group of people. Here, Glenn again will need to persevere and prove it is not for the money but in service of something greater. Words will not be sufficient to win this group, if they can be persuaded.

The last group is the ones who will be tepidly warm but still hold to their suspicions of other motives and something not being entirely Kosher. For this suspicion there is no cure as it simply goes with the territory that as a Christian, Mr. Beck’s efforts will always fall short of Kosher, but that does not mean these efforts are not real, heartfelt, and honest, they are simply not totally Jewish and I would hope nobody expected they would have been. Should Glenn follow up on this program, something he has intimated is going to come and that the Restoring Courage Tour is simply the beginning, then these people may readily become supporters. These are the people who initially poo-poo everything just to be on the safe side. Their ‘told you so’ when they are correct are their trophies and their admitting they may have misjudged, their greatest joy. These people want things to be wonderful and positive but have been knocked around a few too many times to trust anything at first glance. These are cautious people who judge the cake by tasting it, not be simply looking and saying it is a beautiful cake. As the old saying goes, “The proof is in the Pudding.” We all know that the pudding is eaten and then the meal can be judged. Should Glenn Beck’s hopes and dreams for whatever are his plans work out exactly as he has envisioned, then these people will be right next to the first group and claiming they had said so from the start, and everybody will nod and sigh a sigh of relieved resignation.

As for me, I hope Glenn’s efforts meet the highest expectations those of the first group, the supporters from the start, hope they will. My inability to travel well or even afford to make such a trip has me watching on the computer. Did I have reservations? Honestly, yes. I had reservations just as I did for his Restoring Honor Tour at the Lincoln Memorial last August. My prediction that Restoring Honor would actually be more of a Christian revival proved true and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that for that event. If the Restoring Courage Tour had become a revival tent meeting, then I would have been let down as I respect Glenn and believe he is true to his word. I also know that, as far as I can discern, he is a very religious man and takes his Mormon faith very seriously. His story of living a less than perfect life up until he found the woman who changed his life is a story I can relate to with more closely than I wish to admit. When I watched his meeting with Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, I could relate with what appeared to be Rabbi Metzger’s apprehension mixed with hope needing just that small amount of reassurance that I detected, probably projection on my part, as Rabbi Metzger asked Glenn a few pointed and piercing questions. Chief Rabbi Metzger seemed to be more at ease as the two shook hands and the meeting ended. From what I have seen leading up to today’s finale and main event of the Restore Courage Tour has been rewarding and fulfilled my hopes while avoiding affirming any fears I may have held. My congratulations to Glenn Beck, and I pray his future efforts are as inclusive and noble in intent as his special work thus far.

Beyond the Cusp

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