Houston is the first stop for Israeli TV hosts Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel as they take Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem across the United States. "We want to give an empowering, uplifting, inspiring message about Israel. And there's apparently a big thirst for it," Abramowitz says.
Also apparent are the mixed messages some could find less than uplifting.
Abramowitz told Hair Balls the weekly show was born out of their desire to set the record straight about what Israel is all about.
"It's safer there than it is here, and the world paints it as terror and corruption and Jerusalem is such a beautiful city ... it's like a celebration living there," he says.
Although all about Jewish celebration, Jewish philosophy, and Jewish education, Abramowitz said the show is also about the diversity found in Jerusalem and that "Meet the Streets" where they talk to Christians, Jews, and Muslims on, er, the streets, is their most popular segment.
When visiting the show's website, TheLandOfIsrael.com, a particular statement in the Who We Are section could leave some folks hard-pressed to see the same uplifting, positive message:
The nation of Israel is under assault. As the Muslim world is uniting in its pursuit of global domination, nations who were once called friends are taking the path of appeasement and turning their backs on Israel.
Abramowitz told Hair Balls Israel has never been more alone and reminded us that [Israel] doesn't have Canada and Mexico as neighbors, but instead, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon , Iran, Saudi Arabia...
"These countries that are totally committed to our destruction."
Third-generation Houstonian, Abramowitz moved to Israel right after high school and met his co-host Gimpel when he enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces reserves. (Like a lot of young immigrants to America, the earnest Abramowitz told Hair Balls he didn't have to enlist, but felt honored to do it because "it's the first army in Israel since the times of King David -- that's pretty far back -- so it's an issue of pride").
Abramowitz emphasizes that "fighting them, or fighting anyone" is not the focus of Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem, and that their goal is to inspire the world with what Israel and Judaism are about: love and acceptance, kindness and compassion.
Which is, incidentally, not what Abramowitz feels Islam is about:
"To compare to the radical Muslim world -- which if Zionism is ours, then theirs would be Jihad -- where their desire is for the entire world to be under Muslim rule... Go to any Muslim ... and ask them, 'Is part of Islam that the whole world should be under Muslim rule, and under sharia law?' and the answer is yes. That's Islam. A very aggressive global approach... that's Islam."
But he says people shouldn't jump to say that religion is bad.
"If your religion involves killing a girl for holding her boyfriend's hand, it may be a bad religion; But if your religion makes you a tolerant, compassionate person, then maybe it's a good thing."
In the end, though the TV show is meant to entertain and inspire, he understands that "it's impossible for Israel to be in a sentence anywhere and it not to get intensely political."
Abramowitz stated that the Jewish world can feel the Obama administration distancing itself from Israel and that this was made all the more clear by his "snubbing" Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this spring.
"We're not the only ones they want to wipe out, you know" Abramowitz warns, "they say 'first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people'."
In case you haven't figured out where on the American political spectrum the show falls, a look at the Texas line-up gives a clue.
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The main interview will be with Congressman Louie Gohmert, a birther and someone who admiringly read an op-ed column in a House speech comparing Obama to Hitler.
Receiving "Defender of Isreal" awards will be Congressman Ted Poe, who quoted a KKK leader in a House speech, and State Representative Debbie Riddle, perhaps best known for her own quote: "Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell."
"We want to shine a light of gratitude and recognition on a lot of the political leaders that are really standing up for and speaking out on behalf of Israel in a world that's turning against us," Abramowitz says.
So far, Florida, California and Washington State will also enjoy their Tuesday Night Live from Jerusalem.