At a Jerusalem café on a quiet corner of Emek Refaim Street, I sat leisurely at one of the outdoor tables across from a handsome southern gentleman, sipping ice coffee and shooting the breeze. The time sped by as the hours steered the afternoon towards the hint of sundown.
Sporting a fresh clean-cut look, Michael Anthony Ganoe flaunted a ready smile that gave way to a touch of innocence. With his happy-go-lucky demeanor along with his southern drawl, one could hardly mistake him for a Jew, let alone an Israeli. But that is exactly what he aspires to be. No, not Jewish – rather, an Israeli.
But, don’t let his innocent looks deceive you.
Michael Ganoe of the Middle East Research Center goes in for the kill. No pretty prose, he strikes out by spilling his guts onto the page – because only the strong survive.
While most foreigners may think of Israel as a battleground, Michael, a charismatic 42-year-old Protestant from West Virginia, with a Pentecostal upbringing, calls Israel his home. He is not here to proselytize. He is not here on behalf of any Christian organization or movement in the United States. He is here, on his own. Alone, and yet, not alone.
His mission: To get the truth about Israel out to the people in the U.S. because the international media including that of the United States does not.
“At the end of the day, “ Michael Ganoe states , “ one can easily see the greatness of what is going on here in Israel in just 65 years, and all that she has given to the world. I’m tired of the Jews getting slapped in the face and punched in the gut. If anything,” he continues, “the world owes them!”
Believing very much in the Judeo-Christian connection, Michael maintains that “all the denominations need to stick together because our enemies come for all of us.” Very much a Zionist, he doesn’t pull any punches and tells those Jews who are less enthusiastic about Israel, “God has preserved the Land of Israel for the Jewish people, so be thankful for the Land!”
Part of Michael’s overall plan involves meeting with key government officials in the Knesset as well as community leaders and to effectively communicate their message to those who support Israel in the United States.
In Israel only since October, 2012, he is an expert networker and has volunteered his time in the IDF through Sar-El, joined programs such as Adopt-A-Safta started by the founder of Tel-Aviv International Salon, Jay Schultz where he adopted a safta (grandmother) among the aging population of Holocaust survivors in Israel,
interviewed major personalities in the national camp such as Ari Briggs of Regavim, Nadia Matar of Women in Green, as well as Pamela Lazarus, Manager of Sar-El and its Commander whom he simply calls by his first name, “Tiran.”
He had met MK Danny Danon while still back in D.C. and says that Danon and Naftali Bennett are his heroes.
Michael has also managed to meet with personalities in counter terrorism, has become involved with the Michael Levin IDF lone soldiers program and has met with Jonathan Feldstein of American Friends of Magen David Adom and meets with him every three months to donate blood. Michael has produced pro-bono promotional videos for both, the Michael Levin lone soldiers program and for American Friends of Magen David Adom.
Indeed, the list of his efforts on behalf of Israel is long and he literally works around the clock.
I had the opportunity to take Michael on a little excursion into Gush Etzion in the Judean hills, just several kilometers south of Jerusalem. As we drove on the northern road leading into Efrat, he witnessed Muslim terrorists from the outskirts of Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in our direction and at the soldiers guarding the road. Although not unaware of the violence Israelis face, it was quite different for him to see it from the vantage point of being in the eye of the storm. Plans are also set in the coming week to meet with Marc Provisor, One Israel Fund’s chief of security projects throughout Judea and Samaria and go jeeping with him in the Samarian hills while assessing the security needs of the Jewish communities in the region.
It is typical for Michael to stop soldiers in his path and thank them for their service, often buying them drinks and sandwiches.
On one such occasion, he happened to meet two IDF commanders from an intelligence unit and engaged them with his enthusiasm, conveying his gratitude for the hardworking soldiers of the IDF. Impressed with his exuberance, the two commanders invited Michael to sit and have coffee with them at a café. Michael shyly regaled how he brought the two commanders to tears with his story of how he came to love the Jewish State and his journey to settling in Israel. The commanders were so impressed that they invited Michael to speak to their soldiers in order to boost their morale by telling them in his straight forward fashion why their job is so important in defending the Jewish state.
Michael Ganoe expanded the Middle East Research Center (MERCL) based in DC by opening its first office in Israel and is presently the Research and Projects coordinator for MERCL in Jerusalem. His work in Israel is reported weekly on the MERCL website. In addition to putting out articles on the latest news in Israel, he has his own radio program called “Insight to Israel,” that airs in Atlanta, Georgia for two hours on Sunday and one hour during the week. http://www.americaswebradio.com/showpages/insight-to-israel.php
Before he decided to settle in Israel, Michael spent extensive time abroad as an educator in Venezuela (1989), Haiti (1992/94), and Romania (1995). In the U.S., Michael served as a public relations expert and was instrumental in business development for prominent organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the Media Research Institute. He also took an extensive foray into U.S. politics working on several political campaigns as a high-level advisor.
So, what led him to Israel? What made him leave all his family, friends, a world he was familiar with, his home?
“Everything was progressive,” he says. He praises his mother for reading the Bible to him starting from a very young age, as well as raising him to respect the Jewish people. He recalls speaking to his mother’s Pastor while still in college – his last words to him were “Track Islam.”
Indeed, Michael began to track Islam with the outbreak of the Bosnian War while still attending Holmes College and then the Free Gospel Bible Institute. His school, he noted, focused on Israel and was very much pro-Israel. He collected clips of articles on the Bosnian War, the Gulf War and also of Israel. He watched the growth of Islam in Europe, studied their immigration policies and looked into the Koran. He noted how the English version was “watered down.” And, as time went on, he noticed the progressive process of the United States becoming submissive to the U.N.
When he saw the direction that his country was headed in, he felt he owed it to her to try to change things for the better and spent ten years in the campaign sector for two presidential elections as well as several senatorial and congressional campaigns. At the same time, he worked for right-wing think tanks such as the Media Research Center where they expose liberal media bias toward conservatives, Christians and Israel. In D.C., he engaged in advocacy work on behalf of Israel, but it wasn’t enough for him.
“I needed to be here, in Israel, to fight.”
“But, why not fight for America”? I asked.
“Because we left our principles,” he says with a mix of sadness and bitterness, but maintains that he still supports the patriots and the supporters of the constitution.
With the present government having abandoned its core principles, Michael realized that his job was done in the U.S. He felt that God needed him to go to Israel. This was confirmed to him with a $200 plane ticket to Israel given to him by a pilot, whose name he could not disclose, formerly with the US military and now with a US airline.
At first, Michael was hesitant about leaving the US and offered the ticket to his mother. But she said, “You use it. It was meant for you.”
The next “sign” Michael received was when, on a whim, he headed for New York for the Jerusalem Post Conference without pre-registering, yet was able to get in with a press pass for free, no questions asked. He repeatedly returned to New York, networking through the Jewish communities there as well as in New Jersey in order to acquaint himself with Israel from a Jewish perspective. However, he found that for the most part, the Jewish people there saw themselves as “settled” in New York and New Jersey. He had difficulty relating to what seemed to be a big disconnect between American Jews and Israel and realized that there was a huge difference between being Jewish and being Israeli.
As Michael became more driven to get to Israel, he immersed himself in Hebrew music. “Mor Kabasi,” he confessed, brings him to tears with her rendition of “Judea.”. By 2012, he knew he was ready when while jogging, he imagined he was jogging around the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee.
That very summer of 2012, Michael lost his job. Friends that he was staying at in D.C., Dan Curran, a captain in the US Navy, and his wife, Sandie said to him point blank, “Michael, you’re going to Israel.”
The buzz got out in D.C. that Michael Ganoe got his passport and was leaving to Israel. Shortly before his departure, with no concrete plans as to what exactly he would do in Israel, the President of MERCL, Richard A. Hellman, contacted him and took him out to lunch.
“What are you going to do there?” He asked Michael.
“I don’t know, but I know I’m supposed to go,” was the response.
“Well,” Richard Hellman offered, “would you like to open an office in Jerusalem and work for us?” There was one caveat, however. “Of course, you’d have to raise your own money for your own salary.”
“I’ll do it!”
From that point, everything moved forward at a lightning pace. Excited and at the same time “scared to death,” Michael confessed to me, he gave away all his belongings and came to Israel with only $600 in his pocket. With a proud gleam in his eyes he told me how his family threw him a going away party and that his cousins bought a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) from Israel, and presented it to him as a going away present.
The emotional support he received from family and friends was immensely encouraging. Not only that, but he went on to tell me how Americans he never met contacted him online to urge him to tell the Jewish people in Israel “We love them.” Some send him care packages to Israel containing T-shirts, toothpaste, body wash, and deodorant. One supporter sent him an Ipad and another, a camcorder to help him in his pursuit of capturing the news in Israel in real time.
As Research and Projects Coordinator for MERCL in Jerusalem, Michael Ganoe made the job his own and, again, through his extensive networking ability he in no time surrounded himself not only with impressive contacts but with a large circle of Israeli friends who quickly recognized his sincerity and dedication to Israel and her people.
As part of his efforts to show Americans the honest and remarkable faces of Israel that the international media conceals, as well as the very real existential threat from her Muslim enemies from within and without her borders, Michael embarked on a new project set for this June with James Pratt involving a brand new news outlet called The Jerusalem Reports. It plans to feature news articles from Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post as well as submissions from independent Israeli writers, authors, artists and businessmen. “A one-stop shop for Americans to see everything that is Israel,“ Michael explains. “It’s considered the Israeli version of the American Drudge Report.”
Now an eight month veteran of Israeli society, I asked him if he missed his family.
“I do,” he admitted, “but this is where my heart is.” And, what I often hear him interject in the few times I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with him, “Had it not been for Hashem giving the Jewish people the Torah, America would not have the constitution and the Bill of Rights. All these fine principles stem from the Torah and we owe the Jewish people so much.”
“But, what about your personal life?” I pressed him.
“I’m married to Israel,” he simply stated. “America is my mother and Israel is my bride.”