When I was asked by the chairman of the R2R organizing committee Steve Stein, to help secure a Host Hotel and back-up hotels for the R2R Riders, because promoting the hospitality industry is what Anne and I do through our advertising agency, I agreed to do so.
But, in addition to that, I was also asked if I would be willing to promote the event, since advertising and promotion in general is what we also do, which I also agreed to do with one VERY specific condition: THERE WOULD BE NO COMMITTEES.
It was made absolutely clear to Stein that whatever I decided to do would be without any committee involvement whatsoever. And the moment this changed, I was out.
Steve Stein agreed.
But, I told Stein, if I get involved with this R2R, it would be bigger than anything anyone can imagine. That it will be off the wall and grow in directions none of us can predict. And when the scope of this event becomes apparent to the organizing committee and others, everyone will want to have a hand in what will be developing.
I also told Stein repeatedly that there would be people, regardless of our agreement who will try to get involved and make my life a misery; because that’s the way it always is when nothing begins to become something.
Again – Stein said not to worry, and that as the chairman of the organizing committee I had HIS WORD that none of that was going to happen.
So I agreed to market this R2R like none before . . . as long as I had Stein’s word in writing, which he accepted.
HERE COME THE CHRISTIANS:
I believe with all my heart and soul that the future of Israel and the Jewish People rests more in the hands of Christian supporters, especially Conservative Christians, than it does with anyone else, including the Jewish Community and Israel.
Israel is a spec of exceptional humanity surrounded by nearly a half BILLION Arabs and Moslems who in general want Israel dead and gone. And for Jews in Europe, they are also under tremendous threat, which is not unlike what happened prior to the Holocaust that culminated as a policy of “acceptable” anti-Semitism.
In a world of almost SEVEN BILLION people, Jews represent less than TWO-TENTHS of ONE PERCENT of the global population, with about Thirteen Million People Worldwide, most of whom live in Israel and North America.
Those are not good odds when you consider that less than 70 years ago, about half that number were exterminated in what was a very short period (1940-1945) of time.
In one fell swoop; if the Arabs and Persians (Iran) have their way, Six Million Israeli Jews could easily meet that same fate.
IN 1945 PEOPLE COULDN’T BELIEVE THE HOLOCAUST REALLY HAPPENED:
Even though Israel is an incredible regional military powerhouse, it is so small geographically (8000 square miles), that it would easily fit in North America’s smallest Great Lake, (Lake Erie 10,000 square miles), that just one military mistake by Israel would doom it to utter destruction.
And just like the world couldn’t imagine in their wildest nightmares in the 1930’s that there would be a European program to exterminate an entire “race” at the hands of the most civilized people on the planet, they can’t believe in the year 2012 that it could happen again in Israel.
IT CAN – AND GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY IT WILL.
Therefore, my ENTIRE focus for this R2R was to make certain that NEVER AGAIN had real meaning. I didn’t care in the least about the JMA schmooze-fest including the arrival Bar B Q, the Ride through Toronto, the Banquet, or any of the other fanfare.
MY ONLY FOCUS WAS TO MAKE THE MESSAGE OF NEVER AGAIN RESONATE.
That said . . . to meet that objective, my first order of business was to invite the Evangelical Mission of Hope M25 Riders to join us in this R2R, whom I saw on a YouTube Video riding through Israel in solidarity with the Jewish people and the Israeli Military.
So, I made a phone call to Pastor Gary Burd of the M25 in Amarillo Texas, explaining to him who we (JMA) were, and that I would love to have him and his group ride with us at the R2R in Toronto, and take a stand shoulder to shoulder with us in a Pledge of NEVER AGAIN.
I assumed that the Pastor would tell me that this was a good idea, and that he would have to think about it and talk it over with whomever from his group. But he didn’t.
What Gary Burd said without any hesitation was – WHEN AND WHERE? He also said repeatedly how much he thought of this invitation as being an incredible honor to which he couldn’t properly express his appreciation.
AND THAT GOT THE BALL ROLLING.
In the meantime, I secured a terrific HOST Hotel (Holiday Inn Markham Hotel and Suites) managed by a friend and client of mine for the R2R, at an exceptional price.
I worked out secured covered parking for the hundreds of bikes that would be rolling-in, and a special boardroom at no cost, valued at $400 per use with refreshments for organizing committee meetings, of which there were MANY.
I organized the meet and greet Bar B Q (kosher and not kosher) and the Banquet.
I secured the FREE use of a divided ballroom, with one portion of which that was turned into a room of prayer, with the other portion for registration and hospitality.
I made arrangements for the FREE use of the penthouse lounge and balcony deck, also for hospitality.
And when asked by Stein if there was any way the R2R could fly their flag on the Hotel flagpole that too was done.
I assure you, that not one person of the JMA and organizing committee had anything whatsoever to do with any significant part of the arrangements for the Hotel, Bar B Q, and Banquet.
I’m not writing this for a pat on my back, but, as the story unfolds, you’ll understand why I am writing this.
BACK TO THE CHRISTIAN RIDERS:
In the meantime, as things were developing, I contacted a friend of mine, Peter Goldring who is a Member of Canada’s Parliament from Edmonton East (Alberta), to see if he would like to attend the R2R as a government representative to add a new dimension to the event, to which he asked the following:
“Would you be able to get the Riders to pass through Ottawa on their way to Toronto?”
My answer was why not? And that got me thinking.
If we could ride through Ottawa, why not reserve Parliament Hill from where we could make the Pledge of NEVER AGAIN as part of a much larger ceremony?
So I did it.
I reserved Parliament Hill in my name for the purpose of staging what I believed could be an unprecedented and monumental event that could send a message of hope and determination on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people, unlike any other message EVER in support of Israel and Jews.
AND THEN IT STARTED:
Before the ink was dry on my agreement with Parliament Hill, several American JMA people wailed at the fact that Christian Riders were invited to ride in the R2R. They threatened to boycott the entire event unless we told the M25 that they couldn’t participate.
And on it went from Blog to Blog, to the point that the M25 got word of this shameful debate, and offered to pullout if it meant splitting the JMA. I WOULD HAVE NONE OF THAT.
I can’t even begin to describe my shame and the depth of my apologies to Gary Burd and the M25 Christian Riders who made this extraordinary commitment to ride THOUSANDS of miles at their own expense, just to stand with Israel and Jews who were absolute strangers, in such an extraordinary event.
MY RESPONSE WAS SIMPLE:
The M25 will be on Parliament Hill with or without the JMA. And if I was going to be the ONLY Jew on Parliament Hill to be standing amongst these phenomenal Christians – so be it. But the M25 will be there and so will I.
There were many angry email exchanges between Jewish Riders that had nothing to do with me, and one phone call that I participated in with the president of the JMA where I laid down the facts.
As a result, the President of the JMA resigned, and a deal was made amongst the Toronto Organizing Committee and the JMA executive, that the M25 could do whatever they wanted as long as they did not participate in the actual R2R Ride or take part in the Bar B Q and Banquet.
To the great credit of the MAJORITY of JMA members who were not on the executive, there was well-deserved outrage at the shoddy treatment of the Christian Riders at the hands of JMA leaders.
So . . . don’t think for a second that the majority of Jewish Riders were pleased with this ridiculous debate. They were NOT.
As a result of this “group” decision to exclude the M25 that I had no control over, I made special arrangements for the M25 Riders to stay at a separate Hotel, where I decided to spend most of my time with them.
And to parallel the R2R activities, I arranged for a Bar B Q, a Banquet, and began thinking about our own separate Ride.
AND THEN IT GOT REAL INTERESTING.
The Truth Shall Set You Free – THIRD PART is forthcoming.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov