I recently had the honor of leading a group of elected officials and policy leaders on a solidarity mission to Israel. Our experience was unlike any other trip I have led to the Holy Land, and we have a solemn obligation to share what we saw: hope and heartbreak, inspiration and destruction, helplessness and heroism, sorrow, and resolve.
From landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, we saw hope and heartbreak. Posters of the more than 200 hostages lined the terminals, and the normally crowded airport seemed almost empty. Yet, when you look outside on to the tarmac, you see reason for hope: a large jet from a from the United Arab Emirates had landed inspiring hope for peaceful and prosperous days ahead.
In Kfar Aza, we saw inspiration and destruction. Wearing body armor, we walked the ruins of Hamas’ murderous rampage. House after house laid waste. Kfar Aza was one of the villages hit hardest on Oct. 7 with 58 of 400 residents murdered. The smell of burnt tires and death still permeate the town. We stood in the rubble of a house where a family of 5 was trapped and burned alive by radical jihadist terrorists. Coming out of the house, the courage of the Israel Defense Forces was evident and inspiring as they bring Hamas to justice. We heard and felt artillery and mortars as the IDF worked to destroy these monsters.
In Tel Aviv at Captives Square, we saw helplessness and heroism. We met with families of those held hostage by Hamas. Shani Segal’s cousin, Rimon Kirsht, and husband, Yagev Buchshtav, were taken into Gaza. Shani has had no contact with them, but she has not given in to the immense feelings of helplessness. She has worked nonstop to BRING THEM HOME. Shani shared her deep appreciation for the U.S. saying, “Israelis have always known Americans were our friends, but now we know America is our family.” She will not rest until they are all back. The families’ efforts to bring their loved ones home are nothing short of heroic.
In Yanuh-Jat, we saw sorrow and resolve. We mourned with Arab Israeli families from the Druze community, who lost soldiers in this fight against evil. The families of Lt. Col. Salman Habaka and Lt. Col. Elim Abdullah are united both in their overwhelming sorrow and their firm resolve for Israel to be victorious in this fight against evil.
Back at Captives Square, Shani mentioned that she felt unqualified to be leading the effort to bring hostages home. It was my honor to remind her of the story of Esther, and that she was made for such a time as this.
Since its founding in 1948 as stated in her Declaration of Independence, the modern State of Israel has sought peace and prosperity for its neighbors at every turn. Time and time again, Israel’s pleas for mutual recognition and peace have been met with bloodshed, violence, and war.
Coming home, we must be the voice for Israel and the Jewish people. As Christians, we are told that those that bless Israel will be blessed. Next week, the Faith & Freedom Coalition will be sending a letter from key leaders in the Christian community to Congress urging action on critical legislation supporting Israel and standing up to Iran. We will work to support Israel in churches, on college campuses, in media, and at the Federal, state, and local levels of government. Join us and stand with Israel.
Mack W. Parnell is the Executive Director of the Georgia Faith & Freedom Coalition.