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A reported blog about all things Middle East and North Africa.

Glenn Beck goes to Israel

For $6,000 a pop, Americans follow Glenn Beck to Jerusalem.
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U.S. conservative pundit Glenn Beck gestures as he speaks to Israeli members of parliament on July 11, 2011. (Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

Emeq Refaim, the main concourse of the German Colony, a fashionable Jerusalem neighborhood, would normally host, on a blistering August night, an assortment of flimsily attired teenagers enjoying gelato or burgers, guys in their twenties on the prowl and tourists staring in wonderment at the rivers of youth.

Tonight, however, a disembodied but strangely recognizable cry of “bullcrap!” floated through the air above this storied street, whose name translates to “Valley of Ghosts.”

Girls lifted their eyes skyward for a moment from their triple scoop ice cream cones to gaze at the space that emitted that very particular exclamation.

“Bullcrap!” again. Then you could hear “the fire of God!”

GlobalPost in Jerusalem: Amid security fears, Israeli protests lose momentum

It is difficult to exaggerate the strangeness, for Israelis, of the sui generis folksy revivalist sideshow that Glenn Beck brought to the Holy City. Tonight’s event, the second of three, entitled “Courage to Remember,” had a Holocaust focus and the actor Jon Voigt kicked things off my comparing Palestinian terrorists to Nazis as Beck amiably MC’d.

The vivacious Aliza Arens, one of the city’s most prominent architects (and daughter of Israel’s former foreign minister, Moshe Arens) finished dinner with friends at the über-trendy new restaurant The Culinary Workshop and headed, ticketless, down to the Beck extravaganza, only to argue with stone faced young guards.

“I’m just going in for a second!” she exclaimed. I have to see what this is!”

Nothing doing.

The only evident Israelis inside the open air enclosure of Jerusalem’s old train station, where Beck held forth on the second of three events that constitute his “Restoring Courage” tour of Israel were a long row of exhausted tour guides who threw themselves, lounge-lizard-like, on the cement floor, waiting to take their “more than 1,700” charges, according to the Beck people, back to their hotels. Busses waited outside like cattle.

Ron Caruso, 58, of New Brunswick, N.J., was not getting on any of them. He is staying on his own at the King David Hotel, where earlier in the day he shared an elevator with Voigt, and where he is enjoying cocktails at sunset on the hotel’s famous terrace overlooking the Old City. He flew to Israel first class. He’s hired a private guide. He’s a Glenn Beck fan, but he likes to do things his way.

“I got out of rehab around the time he did,” Carsuso, a general contractor, says. “I follow a lot of what he does. I’m not exactly religious, but I know I have a guardian angel who might be the top dog, looking out for me.” Caruso has survived not only a heroin addiction but also a catastrophic car crash two years ago that left him with a crushed spine and frontal lobe injuries requiring six months of intensive care.

Today, he walked all 14 Stations of the Cross. “I’ve been blessed,” he says.

On his right forearm, he proudly bares a brand new, shiny tattoo of the scrolled words “We The People.”

Nearby, Joseph Morgan, 29, of Tuscon, Ariz., is enjoying his first trip abroad, all expenses paid by his pastor back home. His companion on bus No. 2 is Catheryn Day, 36, who bounced her smiley 5-month-old baby, David, on a sling. She flew in from Rabat, Morocco, where her husband, an army officer stationed at the U.S. embassy there, is watching over the five older children, aged 9 to 2, who start school on Wednesday.

The trip has been “eye-opening,” she said. “Things are not at all what we’re told by the media in America. I feel totally safe here.”

Her husband, also a Beck fan, was the one who suggested she might enjoy the trip, which costs $6,000 per participant. “You want to go?” he asked. “But you gotta take the baby!”

Oh, and, and the latest entrant into the republican primary race will be happy to know that all three support Rick Perry.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-casbah/glenn-beck-goes-israel