Glenn Beck at the Knesset, shaking hands after his sermon (photo: Ami Kaufman)
My Glenn Beck experience had quite a strange start to it. When I arrived at the Knesset (after my camera being taken at the gate - I apologize for my cellphone pictures), I got myself a Coke and a nice salty cheese bureka, and then proceeded to the committee room to get a good seat, nice n' early.
As I reached the room of the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee I entered and saw Glenn Beck sitting next to his aide, all alone. It was just me and them. Beck gave me a quick glance and kept on typing on his laptop.
It was kind of odd to see the man I knew from TV, that loud, uber-theatrical guy sitting quietly immersed in his work. I decided to wait a few minutes until he stopped typing and then address him. I had a few questions prepared... specifically about his "Caliphate theory", the conspiracy of Marxists and Islamists trying to take over the world.
But just as he opened his can of Zero, another aide charged in and told me I was in the wrong room. I was told to go to the Negev hall, upstairs.
Outside the Negev hall, the atmosphere was like before a rock concert, complete with the pushing and shoving. Most attendees were religious, all the way from knitted kippas to haredim. After we sat down, it was only a few minutes wait till the star came in. Almost immediately the whole room stood up, including the Members of Knesset, and gave the man a standing ovation.
This was only the beginning of the biggest love-fest I've ever seen. At times, I was squirming in my chair. Considering how Beck has been accused of anti-semitism, the amount of love was particularly odd. Just recently, pundit Dana Milbank of the Washington Post listed a few of Beck's feats in this field:
"...hosting a guest on his show who describes as "accurate" the anti-Semitic tract "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"; likening Reform rabbis to "radicalized Islam"; calling Holocaust survivor George Soros a "puppet master," a bloodsucker and a Nazi collaborator; touting the work of a Nazi sympathizer who referred to Eisenhower as "Ike the Kike"; and claiming the Jews killed Jesus.
But I guess it takes one to know one, which is why I wasn't surprised to see Baruch Marzel (the notorious Kahanist and in my humble opinion one of the most dangerous people this country has seen) taking a seat to hear Beck's sermon.
MK Danny Danon (Likud), the committe chairman, warned the audience not to clap in the Knesset. Yet to no avail. Dannon went on to introduce Beck as "a friend of Israel. If there wasn't a Glenn Beck, Israel would have had to invent one."
The first thing Beck did was apologize for not wearing a tie. He proceeded to tell some kind of story about clothes and meeting a vice premier here, where Danon cut in and said: "Which vice? We have many vices," which is where I said under my breath: 'You got that right, Danny boy! Many vices indeed!"
After the short intro, Beck began what was to become a short sermon on Truth: "You have to think out of the box. The way to do that is to tell the truth. Everyone feels the truth, in the gut. My message to you is: 'stop playing the game'. We in the West are being set up. Israel is being set up."
Beck continued after a short applause: "Antisemitism is about to go through the roof. Because when tragedy happens, it's always the Jew's fault. My event here on August 24th could be the biggest ever. It is not for courage here in Israel. Israel already has enough courage. I'm doing it here, because the solution will be found here. I knew it when I read the book of Ruth and Esther. I want people to hear what I have learned from those books, that "your god is my god, where you go I will go".
And that's it. He got a bit teary eyed, but after 15 minutes - the Beck sermon was over. Danon even tells him "I thought you would speak longer..."
So Danon asks Beck: "Why didn't the American media cover the Fogel family massacre?" Beck says he doesn't know, and admits he's not a journalist - just a storyteller. (Talk about truth, huh? Finally...)
Then it's the MK's turn to ask questions. Problem is, nobody asks anything. It's just MKs waiting for their turn to kiss the feet of the Holy Beck.
MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) tries his best at English, and tells Beck he has "an outstanding record in regards to Israel. I wish we had media here like you."
Deputy minister Ayoub Kara: "Beck and I are both non-Jews, but we see the justice that Jews need. The world hypocrisy must stop! That is why I'm glad you are here, it is so important, my friend. We feel the world doesn't get us."
MK Anat Wilf (Atzmaut): "The battle for Israel is moving to the media, in an effort to delegitimize Israel and Zionism." At this stage, Beck just can't can't stop grinning.
But Wilf is the first to actually ask something of Beck: "I'd like to ask you one thing. Don't portray us as the victim. We are not the victim. But I thank you for your help."
Beck answers Wilf: "Truth is the underdog, underdogs always win! I just visited Auschwitz. It profoundly changed me. I'm making a documentary about Jewish heroism in the Holocaust. Those struggles taught me of what goes on today. The struggle of today is: can the individual rule himself? It's not the victim you can become. Man has tasted freedom!"
He's lost me. I have no clue what he's talking about.
Beck: "Israel is the ultimate story! Yes! man can rule himself! Amen! Amen!! Amen!!!!" Beck slams his hands on the table after each Amen, the clapping goes wild. I'm waiting for the church organ to start and the gospel singing to begin. I look at the door to see if the choir is outside. No sign of them. Yet...
MK Michael Ben Ari, another Kahanist says: "I think Glenn Beck should take my seat in the Knesset". For a minute I think: "Hey! Great!" And then I catch myself... Dammit, I've been duped again!
MK Ben Ari: "Whoever helps Israel is a partner in the work of God, who returned his land to his people."
MK Arieh Eldad, another tough rightwinger, says: "It's true we must say our truth, as you say Mr. Beck. We are in an era where people are opposed to the truth. The truth is, that we must end the occupation: the Islamic occupation of the land of Israel!!!" Wild clapping in the room once again. I feel my life might be in danger.
MK Eldad tells Beck that Jordan is the Palestinian nation."We don't need another Palestinian state," he says.
Then Eldad goes into a long story of how he took care of an injured suicide bomber, because he's a doctor: "The bomber told me he decided to enter a wedding hall from a different entrance a the last minute, because he saw there weren't enough kids to kill! We must tell the world the truth about how they are different from us!"
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely: "I told Netanyahu once, that if we only tell the truth, we will win. He said to me: 'We have to tell that truth everyday in order to win.' I agree. This is not a land conflict. It is religious. Led by Islam. We are here because of the Bible, we were promised this land. If the New York Times lets Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) tell lies in its pages, this shows that it is a battle of good against evil!"
Beck ends the show with some final words: "God's hand is at work. If we can stand together, and just say we believe in common decency, God will do the rest!"
I still have no idea what that means, but everybody else jumps up and the second standing ovation is already underway. A minute afterwards, it's a race to get a picture with the Beck, and exchange some words.
I notice that one of the first to get there, is no other than Baruch Marzel, who Beck shakes hands with warmly.
Baruch Marzel shooting the breeze with Glenn Beck (photo: Ami Kaufman)
Baruch Marzel shakes hands with Glenn Beck's personal aide (photo: Ami Kaufman)
This post originally appeared on +972 Magazine and the event was live tweeted on my twitter feed @amikaufman