Hours ago, I attended the Glenn Beck-sponsored “Restoring Courage” rally in Yerushalayim, and shamefully the Jerusalem Post described the event by focusing its attention – and its headline – on the several dozen “Peace Now” demonstrators rather than the thousands of joyous people in attendance. That is not weird; that is just modern journalism.
The rally itself drew more than a thousand people near the Kotel, several thousand at Safra Square in downtown Jerusalem (my perch) and thousands more in various venues across the globe. It was electric to experience it, and even more exhilarating to be in the presence of unabashed, unequivocal supporters and lovers of Israel and the Jewish people – Jews and Christians alike. No wonder “Peace Now” is discombobulated by the entire event; they – like many Jews – are uneasy with true believers, with people of faith and eternal values, with people for whom the Bible is alive and real.
So the Jerusalem Post missed the real story by highlighting a miniscule opposition. To be sure, Beck opponents were not only on the political left; opposition to the rally came from the religious right as well, most still bearing the scars of the historic hatred and persecution of Jews by Christians, and so are unable to see the changed reality – a world in which many Christians (certainly most American Christians) are friends of the Jewish people, and our allies in the struggle against radical Islam – our only ally. Since it is so hard for Jews (except for Shlomo Carlebach) to love Jews, Jews are naturally suspicious of anyone – especially a non-Jew – who professes a love for Jews. Since Jewish support for Israel is quite tepid in many places, many Jews – especially on the left – are unnerved by an unembarrassed pro-Israel affirmation. And since, sad to say, relatively few Jews actually believe that the Bible is G-d’s word, pronouncements by a Christian (Mormon, in this case) that “the Jewish people have returned to the land of Israel because the G-d of Abraham keeps His promises” (Glenn Beck) will invariably embarrass unfaithful Jews. And they should be embarrassed.
Beck, who is passionate, emotional and inspirational (and has the faintest hint of a goatee), touched all the right notes for our audience that included many Orthodox Jews, Americans and Israelis. He asserted that there is nothing to teach Israel about courage, but that he is concerned about the voices of the fickle and the feeble who encourage more and more concessions, and who do not recognize the global war that is before us and that is the challenge of our generation. Beck: “There is more courage in one square mile of Israel than in all of Europe, and more courage in one Israeli soldier than in all the cold-hearted and faceless bureaucrats at the United Nations.” “As Israel goes, so goes the West,” and that sentiment underlies both the theme and the purpose of the rally: Every person can make a difference, every human being has an obligation to love and support Israel and the Jewish people, and Israel has the obligation to maintain its courage, face its enemies, and lead the world in this modern struggle. And only Israel can – because it represents G-d in the world, bears His word and His name, and was chosen for this purpose. Our touchstone must be “lo eera” – “I will not fear.”
Obviously, none of this resonates at all with the “Peace Now” crowd, which, one might have thought would have slipped away to oblivion after their misguided ventures of the last 25 years. Apparently, they have been resurrected, with many of these Israeli anti-Israel groups wholly funded and underwritten by the European Union, major NGO’s across the world, and other entities looking to weaken and destroy Israel.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, pressured not to attend, came anyway and spoke about our need to accept the apologies of the greater Christian world, and remember that “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations.” Too often, Jews forget the Universalist elements of the Torah, and our mission to the world – bludgeoned into nothingness under the ferocious hatred that lasted for almost two millennia. But we have to be able to look forward, and not just backward, to live in the present and the future and not only the past. The persistent fear of many rabbis that Christian support for Israel is rooted in a missionary zeal and the necessary prerequisites for the Second Coming ring hollow and sound antiquated. All the Christian denials notwithstanding, a confident Jewish people with a divine mission and Torah should have nothing to fear, and, needless to say, not one Jew who attended this afternoon, to my knowledge, renounced his faith and became a Christian or a Mormon.
If anything, it is hard to imagine that any Jew who attended the rally did not walk away a better Jew (!), imbued with a sense of our destiny, thankful for the gifts of our generation, cognizant of the fulfillment before our eyes of the promises of the Prophets of Israel, and blessed to live in a generation in which millions of Christians are urging Jews (!) to heed the Bible and the word of G-d, and lead the world to salvation. Beck’s speech was devoid of politics (US or Israeli), and he delivered a better sermon than most rabbis of my acquaintance. And his public recognition of courageous Israelis – the Fogel family and the people of Itamar, Rami Levi of the eponymous supermarket chain that recently opened a branch (a first) in Gush Etzion that serves and is staffed by Arabs and Jews, and the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, co-owned by an Arab and a Jew and destroyed (then rebuilt) after a suicide bomb attack, and all honored at the rally – can only hearten all good people of faith across the world as to the potential for human good, and the depths and depravity of the Arab-Muslim evil that has claimed thousands of innocent lives on every continent of the earth in the last two decades.
It is nothing short of disgraceful that some media focused more on the sparse demonstrations than on the event itself. It is disheartening that many Jews – good Jews – see the Biblical prophecies fulfilled in our day but can not countenance that one such prophecy, that might be realized in our day, was Yeshayahu’s vision of the nations of the world ascending the mountain and coming to the “House of the G-d of Yaakov” and pronouncing fealty to the G-d of Abraham. That is where the rally was centered, and that is a sign of the end of days, but too many of us are still living in medieval times and wary of the next Crusades.
But it is rewarding (one attendee termed it “awe-inspiring”) to witness unambiguous love of Jews and Israel, courageous support for Israel at a time when such support is dangerous, or just reflexively absent, and to be part of an event that might embolden Jews to assume our natural leadership role in matters of the spirit, morality, and transmission of the divine value system. To have a proud non-Jew come to Israel, and make Jews feel proud to be Jews and Israelis proud to be Israelis is no small feat.
It is, in fact, a challenge to our generation of Jews to move history forward, and hasten the redemption of all mankind.