Members of a tour group from First Baptist Church of Loganville, Georgia, and a Kentucky Baptist are among other groups in the Holy Land and are safe, four days after Hamas militants bombarded Israel with rockets in a surprise attack that also brought gun battles to its streets for the first time in decades. See related story on the crisis and other church groups in Israel.
The Georgia co-pastor Chase Snyder asked people to pray for the group as they try to arrange a trip home.
“They are safe and are outside the conflict area,” Snyder said on the church’s Facebook page. “They are in conversations with their travel organization about what actions the team needs to take.”
In an update on Monday (Oct. 9), Snyder said the group remains safe and urged people to pray for their safe return home and for a quick end to the fighting.
“Their travel agency is working to secure flights home,” he said.
Church groups are routinely traveling in and out of Israel for Holy Land pilgrimages. However, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines announced that it had canceled flights to and from Israel during the fighting.
‘In a good place’
A well-known Kentucky Baptist stranded in Israel posted an update Monday morning on his travel situation.
Alan Dodson, who served as south region consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention for 10 years after pastoring in Kentucky, now serves as vice president for U.S. Relations with E.D.I. Travel, an Israeli company specializing in Christian tours of biblical sites around the Mediterranean.
In a Facebook update, Dodson said he was unsuccessful in getting a flight back to the U.S.
“I got to the airport and literally had stepped into the door and got the message that my flight had been canceled,” he said, noting that it appears he will be in Israel indefinitely. “I am in a really good place and do not feel threatened. I’m in a very safe place with some really good people.”
Dodson quoted Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
Dodson, who resides in Somerset, asked “if you are around my family, love on them a little bit. All is well with me — I am not concerned. I would love to be home, obviously, but will get there sometime very soon.”
Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel Saturday. Latest reports from Israel are that the Israeli military has ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip, stopping deliveries of food, fuel and supplies to that region which is inhabited by 2.3 million people.
War rages on
Israel bombarded downtown Gaza City on Tuesday and expanded a massive mobilization of reservists, vowing punishing retaliation against the Hamas militant group that increasingly left residents of the tiny Palestinian territory with nowhere to go, The Associated Press reported.
Israel’s military said Tuesday morning that it had regained effective control over its south and the border.
The AP reported that the war has already claimed at least 1,600 hundred lives on both sides — and perhaps many hundreds more. Israel has also said that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza are also holding more than 150 soldiers and civilians hostage.
The news service said the conflict is only expected to escalate from here. Israel expanded the mobilization of reservists to 360,000 on Tuesday, according to the country’s media.
The Associated Press said a major question is whether Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza — a tiny strip of land wedged among Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean that is home to 2.3 million people and has been governed by Hamas since 2007.
The Israeli military said it struck hundreds of targets overnight in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, an upscale district that is home to ministries of the Hamas-run government, as well as universities, media organizations and the offices of aid organizations.
The AP said the weekend attack by Hamas left a death toll unseen since the 1973 war with Egypt and Syria — and even those deaths happened over a longer period of time. The weekend attack was also notable for the high number of civilians killed.