Lawyers, academics, journalists, successful businesspeople and even a Knesset member all gathered for one purpose only: To glorify Chuck Norris. We kid you not.
This is the Israeli branch of one of the wildest genres in the global nonsense humor scene. The hero is of course Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris, 74, the American actor whose action films ("The Delta Force," "The Way of the Dragon," "Walker") present unrealistic acrobatic scenes. In recent years, quite a few websites have popped up around the world presenting "Chuck Norris facts," which take his exaggerated abilities one step forward and prove how Norris created the world, revived the dead and is responsible for all good things on earth.
"There are delusional and crazy people out there who to this very moment still think that this conference is not real," the conference's president, attorney Gil Slovik, said in his opening remarks. "Well, let it be clear – the normal people are in here!"
MK Zvulun Kalfa of the Bayit Yehudi faction surprises the audience when he declares, "I identify with Chuck, who was forced to deal with bad enemies all alone. There are those who say that the leader of our party, Nafatali Bennett, is the Chuck Norris of our generation. This debate is purely insolent. God forbid should we even think of such a thing. Nonetheless, it's important to me to clarify that Bennett does draw inspiration from Norris, but he doesn't even have a trace of the great Chuck in him." Well, some people have lost their career for much less than this.
The most idiotic issue in the world
The initiators of the "second conference" (there wasn't a first one, but "Chuck decided that this would be the second one, and we don't argue with him") are Slovik and Assaf Voll, the owners of digital content company Hamatchena ("the grinder"). They recruited Moshe Porat, a successful high-tech man, who contributed his company's offices and supplied beer.
The event page they opened on Facebook seemed like a joke at first – but managed to draw thousands of followers. The hard core dropped everything over the weekend and flocked to Modiin.
"Gil and I have a content company," Voll says. "We are in a startup incubator which is trying to develop workplaces in Modiin, and the guy running his startup asked what we could do so that people would understand that this is not just a city one sleeps in. We really like nonsense, and so we decided to hold a non-profit nonsense conference and get people who are extremely serious in their daily life to talk about a completely grotesque issue in all seriousness. Like Chuck Norris."
The idea, explains Voll, is a serious, almost obsessive involvement in the most idiotic issue in the world.
"The academic world, and in the media as well, are sometimes obsessed with much more idiotic things than Chuck Norris," he says. "The academia can explore a completely ridiculous theory for years, like post-modernism, and talk about it in all seriousness and attribute all kinds of meanings to it. In my opinion, the post-modernistic narrative is as idiotic as Chuck Norris. And he is definitely not any more idiotic than a reality star whose omelet burned when he was small and who suffered a trauma."
Voll, originally a religious guy, is fearless. Although he doesn't present it that way, it's a blatant satire about Jewish mythology and mythologies in general. "People take mythology very seriously, but I see it as part of the nonsense," he explains. "We used Chuck Norris so that people – even Norris, I hope – would find it easier to laugh. If we had done this show about Moses, for example, it's reasonable to assume that a lot of people would have found it more difficult to laugh."
It's possible, Voll explains, that in several years Rabbi Ovadia Yosef will turn into a mythological figure like Elijah the prophet, "and who knows, maybe even Shimon Peres will be remembered as one.
"If people say again and again that the Western Wall is holy and holy and holy, and reiterate 1,000 times that the grave of Rabbi Nachman (of Breslov) is holy, people think it's real. But what's the difference between Chuck Norris and the Western Wall? It's like in the Yom Kippur prayer you say seven times, 'God is the Divinity.' If it were that obvious, we wouldn't have to repeat it so many times. And so we will hold the conference every year, like the celebrations of biblical figures, until Norris because a supernatural figure himself."
The event's program sounds like a joke, but it's shockingly real: A greeting from a Knesset member, an Israeli pilot, a biblical lecture – Norris in the Scriptures, his influence over the space program, a body language expert analyzing his kicks, a heated panel on whether "Bruce Lee really did defeat Chuck Norris," with a former consul in Vietnam who is familiar with Norris' battle areas, and a communications professor as well.
Slovik opens the conference by presenting the "board of trustees of the Chuck Norris forum for national strength": Meir Dagan ("unexcited by bodies, flees the media"); the Incredible Hulk; Ehud Barak ("a person connected to the people of Israel. It is known that Chuck Norris promoted him after he managed to split an apartment into 15") and Isaac ("charisma") Herzog ("who resembles Chuck very much, apart from the beard, the mustache and the muscles").
Slovik concludes with a number of Chuck Norris statements about Modiin which were written especially for the conference, like "Chuck Norris works in Modiin and sleeps in Tel Aviv" or "this year, for the very first time, the mall wasn't flooded with water, because Chuck drank it."
Dr. Ilan Abekasis, a biblical studies lecturer, reveals in flowery language a series of phenomena in the Bible which he says "Chuck Norris was responsible for." He provides a series of biblical quotes starting with the Exodus to the splitting of the Red Sea, which he says prove his thesis.
Abekasis goes on to examine the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, and the audience stares at him mesmerized, some crying out "amazing" and "it's about time." The man actually sat down and translated biblical sources, planting the names of the American actor's films in them.
Next is Lieutenant Colonel Reuven Ben Shalom, a former Air Force pilot, who reveals how Norris helped the Israel Air Force. "I didn't understand that this was humorous. Mine is a very serious issue. I am going to reveal something here for the very first time," he begins his classic pilot's lecture: Systematic, reasoned and theoretical.
For example, he proves how the Air Force's combat doctrines are incorporated in what you see in Norris' films. On the screen he presents a picture of his flight course comrades from the late 1980s, and points at one of them who looks like Norris: "I didn't know it was him at the time."
He then reveals how the initials of the series of activities in preparation for the flight create the letters C-H-U-C-K N-O-R-R-I-S, and presents a picture in which Norris is seen handing him his aviator badge.
Eti Karo-Abekasis, a body language expert, analyzes Norris' battles, and Eyal Ben Ze'ev, who worked in the Israeli space industry, delivers a lecture on Chuck's part in the system.
"I decided to reveal a story which the defense establishment has been hiding for a long time now, about Israel as a one person's space power," he says, presenting complicated mathematical formulas of gravity and the launching of a satellite, after which Norris is seen jumping on a vehicle and kicking the driver through the windscreen. "Only when we saw this clip we understood the whole thing," he testifies.
Cries of despair from the audience
The highlight of the evening is a serious panel hosted by journalist Erel Segal, which seeks to refute the most painful issue: A legendary battle from the film "Way of the Dragon" (1972), in which Chinese actor Bruch Lee defeats and kills Norris. Amir Hetsroni, a provocative communications professor, analyzes the clip and Voll claims that the film is real. Nati Brooks, who spend quite a long time in Vietnam, gives his own testimony, and "Rabbi Moshe Wazari" (Slovik with a fake beard) presents the Jewish aspect.
When the film is screened, cries of despair can be heard from the audience. One person shouts that the clip is staged, and the organizers "reveal for the first time" a new clip, in which only Norris' strikes are shown. The scene ends with a picture of Lee's gravestone.
"In the 1980s, Norris starred in Menachem Golan's C-grade films and sold workout equipment on the Shopping Channel," Prof. Hetsroni tries to fire up the audience, which responds angrily. "There is a limit to the freedom of expression," someone shouts. Voll notes that the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz referred to Norris in the past as a "Judo-Nazi."
Brooks, the former Israeli consul in Hanoi, says: "I served in Vietnam for three years, and this scene is a fable. It can't be that Chuck Norris loses." He then "reveals" that Norris was asked to represent Israel at the United Nations Security Council." Hetsroni screams, "But Israel is not a member of the Security Council!" Brooks replies, "And why is that? Can you imagine what would happen if there was a vote and Chuck Norris raised his hand?"