Thirty-one very excited travelers boarded flights this morning to begin our journey of a lifetime to Israel together! Unfortunately, our group has to travel on two separate flights, but we were able to connect briefly in the Phoenix airport prior to our first leg of the journey.
As I write, we are enjoying fellowship together during a layover in Newark NJ. We’ll board shortly for our final leg, scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv tomorrow afternoon (early morning in Phoenix!) Already, we have seen the hand of the Lord, as lost items were found quickly, and friendships that will last a lifetime have been birthed. Our group is extraordinary in every conceivable way. Though we come from different churches and, in some cases, different cities, all are fun-loving, welcoming of one another and sensitive to the needs of those around them. No doubt, we will have an exciting time, and each will be blessed by new friendships we make.
As you may have heard, there is “activity” in and around the Gaza Strip. A couple days ago, Israeli intelligence detected verifiable plans of a terrorist attack being coordinated by the leadership of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. In order to prevent an imminent attack, the IDF launched a preemptive mission to assassinate two leaders of PIJ. In retaliation, over 160 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel.
Upon hearing that news, concerned friends and family have asked about the wisdom of traveling to Israel. Rest assured, we would not go if it was not safe. For those who are concerned, here are some details you should know:
- Activity in and around the Gaza Strip is not quite as dramatic as you may think when you see the news. Rockets fired by the Palestinians are not “smart,” meaning they are not guided missiles. They are launched in the direction of Israel and some malfunction before even crossing the border. Others, on a trajectory to land in unpopulated areas, are left to land uneventfully. Those headed toward populated areas are shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. (Yes, they have the capability of determining where a projectile will land!)
- Having said that, for those living near the Gaza border, those events are terrifying. Israelis have only seconds to flee to a bomb shelter. Never shall we discount the trauma inflicted upon those near the border. However, the vast majority of rockets fired from Gaza do not have the range to hit highly populated areas. (Our group will be nowhere near the Gaza border.)
- Militarily, the IDF is capable of literally destroying the Gaza Strip in a matter of minutes if they need to. Thus, these skirmishes do not escalate. These efforts by terrorist groups are meant to kill Israeli citizens, if possible, and to gain the world’s sympathy for their “oppressed condition.” (Untrue as that is.)
- Biblically, God’s hand is upon Israel. Not to say a random act could not happen…but random acts occur routinely across the world, particularly in situations where gunman open fire on innocent citizens. We are no safer in America than in Israel in that regard. Furthermore, history is filled with miraculous ways in which the Lord has kept Israel safe. What makes us think He will suddenly cease being Israel’s shield?
- Finally, the Bible tells us our days are numbered. Whether we are sitting at home or adventuring anywhere else in the world, we will not shake God’s plan. Certainly, it is not wise to “tempt death,” and that is not the objective. However, our security contacts in Israel tell us the situation is controlled and all is back to normal in most of Israel. (Some precautions remain along the Gaza border.)
Thank you so much for your prayers. Continue to pray for our safety, but please don’t fret. Our group is comfortable and no one feels unsafe! Pray we will not be distracted by such things but will be free to focus on the grace and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, clearly on display as we visit His chosen land and His chosen people!