In Israel’s Knesset, Glenn Beck Plays to the Home Crowd

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Glenn Beck gestures as he speaks to members of the Knesset on July 11, 2011, in Jerusalem. (Photo: Gali Tibbon - AFP - Getty Images)

Glenn Beck’s tour guide in the Knesset on Monday was the same fellow who squired Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee around Jerusalem: Danny Danon, the sleek, arch-conservative deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament and a man who knows how to inspire Christian fundamentalists.  “I do a lot of fundraising in the United States,” Danon told me one afternoon last fall over coffee. “The Jews give, but it’s always, ‘Yes, but.”’ Here he grinned. “With the evangelicals,” he said, “there’s never a ‘but.’”

With Beck, it was even better, said Dannon.”If we didn’t have someone like Glenn Beck . . . we would have had to invent someone like him,” Danon said introducing the former Fox pundit. Beck is head over heels in love with the Jewish State. He promotes Israel  relentlessly on his  programs, and is organizing a “Restoring Courage” rally in Jerusalem on Aug. 24.  “It’s not for courage here in Israel. You’ve got plenty,” Beck assured a packed  committee room.

The topic of the day was attacks on Israel’s “legitimacy,” and whatever suggestions Beck might have on getting Israel’s message out to a world that seems less and less inclined to listen.  The star offered more reassurance than advice, emphasizing that Israel is doing well in what was the very first country to recognize it after independence.

“There are millions of people that you don’t see — because the media doesn’t like to tell your story, either, that you are not alone,” he said.  This may have been fairly apparent from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of  the U.S. Congress, interrupted by 29  standing ovations. But Beck was thinking of his July 4th in Driggs, Idaho. “Idaho is milk-toast, golly gee USA,” he told the Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. “I don’t know if there’s very many Jewish people in Idaho. If they’ve seen ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ that’s probably their Israeli experience.”  But they identify with Israel, he said. “As Israel goes, so goes the rest of the world.”

Beck, whose site bills him as “the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment,” also spoke of his recent trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where perhaps a million Jews perished, and the unlikely message of “hope” he found there while filming a documentary. He touched at length on the March killing of a settler family, including an infant, in the Itamar settlement. The subject of more than one his programs, Beck called it a “horror show” beyond Hollywood’s imagining with “villains not like I’ve seen before.” A pair of Palestinian teenagers have confessed.

He found himself among friends. Legislator after legislator thanked him, both in English and in Hebrew. Outside, an ultra-orthodox businessman hired a crane to hoist a banner over the Knesset lawn. “Thank you, Glenn Beck,” it said, above the signature, “The Jewish Nation.”  The Hebrew lettering over both read: “The Left is Afraid and Rightly So” with three exclamation points.

And if, in the tradition of motivational speakers, he was at times less than coherent  (“The world is about to go into chaos,” he said at one point), Danon noted “he speaks from his heart. A lot of passion.”  In a brief interview after the hourlong meeting, the Likudnik smiled at the mention of Huckabee, who attended the groundbreaking of an East Jerusalem settlement, and Palin, who he escorted to the Western Wall. “I’m working very hard with the Republicans!” he said. But Beck gets his own category.

“Different,” Danon said. “He’s putting on this event on Aug. 24.” Restoring Courage is themed “Stand with Israel.”  Besides airing on GBTV.com (“The truth lives here”), it’s sizing up as a massive grassroots effort to mobilize support for the Jewish State in the heartland through some 700  “viewing parties” at private homes. The fundraising prospects are fantastic. Danon shook his head. “It’s a different ball game,” he said.

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