Not long ago we wrote a blog article pointing out how safe it was for pilgrims to travel to Israel. At the time, that was true….pilgrims found, to their surprise, that they were perfectly safe. Although there have been long-simmering calls for the elimination of Israel by Hamas, there was did not appear any imminent threat.
But now, everything has changed….and perhaps permanently. We seem to have reached a tipping point. Obviously this will go down as one Israel’s rare intelligence failures. Mossad, Israel’s Intelligence agency, has had a reputation as perhaps the premiere intelligence agency in the world. Apparently they were not prepared for a wide ranging attack by Hamas within the borders of Israel, even though this attack took place not only on the Jewish Sabbath, but also on the Festival of Sukkot, which is one of the major feast days and often a time when militants have been known to attack, it would have called for the highest alert on the part of Israeli defense forces….and yet, they were caught by surprise. Our guess is that there will be a lot of second-guessing amongst the intelligence staff of Mossad.
This situation is too complicated to cover in depth in this blog post….there are many parties involved and many moving parts. Some progress was recently reported in the effort to get Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel…something that would have changed the dynamics in the region significantly. And that may be why Hamas schedule this attack at this time…to disrupt these talks. And, Iran has been known to fund activities of both Hezzbollah and Hamas….but little is known specifically about the Iran’s involvement in these attacks.
The Israeli military response will undoubtedly result in civilian casualties in the occupied territories, which of course will be held against them…..despite the fact that they were attacked in the first place. And so the cycle of violence will continue.
The danger of this spreading in what is a volatile region (to say the least) is worrisome. Already, in Egypt, two Israeli tourists and their Egyptian tour guide were shot dead in Alexandria, apparently by a policeman.
Israel is at War
When you have armed militants in your country kidnapping innocent civilians, executing them at will, then this is now more than just a brief incursion, and must be considered an act of war. as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Sunday October 8. Just how far things will go we cannot say, but the outlook as of today (October 9) does not look good. Israel has issued a complete blockade of the West Bank, cutting off water and electricity as well.
Meantime….rockets continue to be launched not only from the West Bank, but…even more worrying….from Lebanon. The latter threatens to expand the hostilities further than just Israel, Hezbollah (consisting mainly of Sunni Muslims aligned with Iran) controls most of Lebanon and Iran provides Hezbollah with most of its funding, training, and weapons.
And….there are still some fighting going on within Israel between the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas in occupied towns and buildings.
Status of pilgrims scheduled to travel to or return from Israel:
So far as we can tell, all tour companies have cancelled their scheduled trips to Israel through the end of 2023, and have worked feverishly to bring any pilgrims already in Israel home as quickly as possible. You can read one such response here from Select International Tours.
As a side note, many people on various blogs were talking about something happening in October. We cannot say…only time will tell. In the meantime, please pray for peace in the Middle East. Events like this have been known to spiral out of control beyond what we see now.