ICEJ Brings 70 Pastors (18 Nations) to Gaza Border Communities
By: David R. Parsons, ICEJ Vice President & Senior Spokesman
The ICEJ led a solidarity mission of 70 pastors and ministry leaders from 18 nations on a tour of the Israeli communities along the Gaza border on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, including stops at devastated Kibbutz Nir Oz and a parking lot filled with 1,300 burned-out cars. The Christian visitors were stunned by the “radical evil” shown by Hamas terrorists last October 7 and came away more determined than ever to stand with Israel’s right to defend its people.
The solidarity tour began with a visit to the head offices of the Sdot Negev Regional Council to witness the ICEJ’s donation of 113 Motorola radio transmitters, which will enable emergency response teams in the region to send instant, encrypted multiparty alerts. The Christian Embassy has now donated 366 of these highly-effective communication devices to every regional council along the Gaza border over recent years, and they already proved invaluable on October 7 by helping local security teams swiftly muster and defend several communities during the Hamas massacres, thereby sparing thousands of lives.
The next stop was a large parking lot near T’kuma filled with over 1,300 damaged and burned-out cars, many of which had been deliberately set on fire by Hamas terrorists with dead or wounded Israelis still inside. The site contains a long row of twisted, rusted-out car frames piled 10 meters high, hundreds of which came from the Nova music festival where over 340 Israelis were slaughtered. The Christian delegates received special permission to visit the secured parking lot through Sdot Negev security chief Rafi Babian, who also recounted for the group his valiant efforts to lead some 30 vehicles filled with civilians through open fields to safety on October 7.
The ICEJ tour then visited Kibbutz Nir Oz, where more than one-quarter of the 425 residents were either murdered or kidnapped by Hamas militiamen. The community remains largely abandoned from the vicious assault by some 150 well-armed terrorists. Nearly four months later, the Christian visitors found the kibbutz dining hall still strewn with broken glass, slices of moldy bread left in a basket, and the unplugged Nestle freezer filled with long-melted ice creams still in their wrappers.
Nir Oz also is home to the Bibas family with their two red-headed boys that have captured the world’s attention. The front courtyard of their house is a heart-breaking scene, with a baby bouncer and car seat belonging to one year-old Kfir Bibas and the bicycle and play toys of his four-year-old brother, Ariel.
The final leg of the solidarity tour was spent at Kibbutz Mefalsim, where the Christian leaders shared a cookout with local emergency teams and received a briefing from the kibbutz security officers on how they managed to fend off dozens of terrorists on October 7.
The tour was organized by ICEJ’s charitable partner Shmuel Bowman of Operation Lifeshield, and it left a deep impression on the pastors and ministry leaders involved.
“We saw the face of radical evil,” said Anglican theologian and scholar Dr. Gerald McDermott as the tour concluded. “This is what happens when human beings become dehumanized and treat others as less than human.”
“It’s been very difficult being a South African with the present situation in our country,” explained Vivienne Myburgh from Cape Town. “There’s a lot of denial that things like this happened, and that’s part of the reason why I came. It’s really powerful to be able to say: ‘I was there. I saw the homes. I spoke to the people that were involved.’ And there’s absolutely no way this was some fake social media imagery, which some people shockingly imply. I now have so much good information to go back and fight for this important cause.”
“The yard with piles of burned-out, rusted cars felt almost sacred, since so many of them once contained Israelis whose lives were so brutally cut short,” added David Parsons, ICEJ Vice President and Senior Spokesman. “Everyone came away from this tour in agreement that Israel must keep battling this evil until the enemy’s will to fight is broken.”
The ICEJ’s Solidarity Mission will continue this week with a visit to the Knesset to engage with several Israeli MKs on Wednesday, a meeting with several hostage families that evening, and then a tour of the northern border on Thursday to learn more about the threat from Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The nations represented in the ICEJ solidarity visit to Israel include Australia, Cameroon, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
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