We returned gratefully to our beloved country having learned many lessons which we realize apply not just to us, but to all Americans.
When the war broke out on Saturday, Oct. 7, my wife and I were in Israel on day 10 of a 13-day tour. By a series of small miracles, we were able to leave commercially the following Monday. We still ask ourselves, “Why us and not them?” Thousands remained stranded at the airport with little hope of leaving as airline after airline canceled flights and stopped service. Doubtless, many of these unfortunate people waited in misery for days. As we lifted off the ground, I felt “survivor’s guilt.” I now understand the term personally.
This trip was our second to Israel, but on a private tour with another couple instead of the standard bus tour we joined in 2018. Those who have traveled to Israel know that for a Christian, a tour there is a pilgrimage, not a vacation. Our guide is well-known, exceptionally knowledgeable, and one of the deans of the guide community in that country. Also a patriot, completely mobile and fit despite grievous combat wounds from his army years.
We passed places south of Jerusalem, in the Golan Heights, and in the Old City of Jerusalem where his unit fought. He pointed out hundreds of bullet-hole pockmarks in the stone south wall of the Old City and explained how some were from his weapon. He energetically promotes peace with Palestinians, to the point of criticizing Israel’s national policy and suggesting very bold ideas for changes to Palestinian relations. We learned a great deal from him.
Our wonderful tour came to a jarring end that Saturday morning, our conversations about Biblical history replaced exclusively by phone calls planning our urgent exit.
We cannot know whether his mind changed after the savage atrocities that took place that Saturday near Gaza. But he did vehemently say, “This attack is without precedent and will never happen again.”
The horrible details filtered throughout the population ahead of news reports. Israel is a small country, and we could tell nearly every Israeli lost or nearly lost friends or family in the butchery.
Witnessing Red Flags
Without knowing at the time, we witnessed two “burning red flag” incidents before the attacks started on Saturday. The first was on Wednesday morning as we drove near the Lebanese border. Looking west about 800 yards from the road, we saw a motorized paraglider traveling south. Half an hour later, further south and east, we saw another. My thought was, “How nice to see people having fun!”
Now we know the paragliders were a primary means of infiltration used from Gaza in the south. What has been underreported in the news is that infiltration also took place in the north before the big attack from Gaza. We saw it. This seems a grave development to me.
On Friday, we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Our Israeli guide could not safely accompany us. The local government assigned us a Palestinian as our guide. Emerging from the church, we saw a line of 50 to 60 Palestinian men shoulder to shoulder, with their backs to us, blocking passage into or out of the large plaza in front of the church. To me, turning one’s back to another is meant to convey disrespect.
Opposite the plaza is a mosque, which was broadcasting martial music at deafening volume, along with droning messages which we knew as hostile even without understanding Arabic. We could feel it. Our guide told us he could not risk being photographed and that we should quickly follow him through a side alley. When we were clear of the scene, he told us the demonstrators were demanding the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The incident gave us an uneasy feeling, but we quickly shook it off.
Hindsight is 20/20
After reflecting on our trip for weeks now, several lessons stand out as applicable to Israelis and Americans alike.
First, on our arrival flight in 2018, we were sternly told to close all shutters on the plane windows and to dim the lights inside. On our arrival this time, as we approached Tel Aviv for our midnight landing, we heard no announcement about closing windows or blocking lights from the plane. The change seemed odd to us, and I rationalized it by telling myself Israel probably had better technology now to identify missile threats. On reflection, Israel had become complacent.
Second, when driving along the Jordanian border on Thursday, we asked about the border fence. Closest to the road to the east is a 10- to 12-foot steel fence with barbed wire to the top and concertina strung laterally from post to post. Behind it, further toward the Jordanian side, perhaps 80 yards of bare fields, all obviously mined. Then another, lower warning fence.
I asked our guide why the deadly barrier if Jordan and Israel are at peace. He patiently explained that Jordan faces its own internal terrorist threats (it tolerates none), and wants no trouble with its good neighbor should it miss a terrorist infiltration from the Jordanian side. He stated firmly that the Trump border wall is a ridiculously expensive physical barrier. He said Israel could show the United States how to build a better wall, more effective and cheaper, using sensors, cameras, and other technology.
His certainty about the barrier’s effectiveness would be obliterated within two days when Hamas terrorists disabled the Gaza sensors with cyberattacks, shot out the cameras, tore out the flimsy fence with heavy front loaders, and then sent their butchers through to the Israeli side on motorcycles. We’ve all seen the videos. Why there were not active minefields is a mystery to me.
Nonetheless, the lesson is clear: For effective border security, a country needs formidable walls in addition to fancy technology. Borders these days, and always, are a serious business for any nation.
The Right to Bear Arms Can Mean Life or Death
The third lesson comes from how attacks unfolded in the villages near Gaza. The driver taking us to the airport (an army veteran) said his daughter, visiting in the United States, lost five friends murdered at the music festival. Nobody was armed, nobody could fight back. It was a slaughter. If not for his daughter’s trip, she would have been there too, and dead.
At the airport, I spoke to a brave Israeli woman who reported dutifully to work. Through tears, she said, “My country will never be the same.” She told me privately that her son lives within miles of Gaza.
On Saturday morning, he brought his three young children from the house and put them in the car to take to an event. When he switched on the engine, by chance he looked in the rearview mirror. He saw an armed man coming toward them, obviously a terrorist. He rolled down the window and “screamed” (her words) to his neighbor who was armed. “Terrorist, shoot him, shoot him!”
The neighbor understood and acted quickly, killing the man. Her unarmed son then fled with the kids and successfully hid. He must have had the instinct not to leave in the car. Hamas terrorists blocked both ends of the main exit road and riddled escaping cars with bullets, murdering hundreds — almost all of whom were unarmed.
Earlier in the week, we had asked our guide about Israeli gun laws. He explained a complicated series of steps required to get a gun, including annual requalifications. This was shocking to us, not only because of the ongoing terrorist threat but because almost all Israelis, like him, have military experience including weapons training.
Our guide said, “I don’t understand Americans and their guns.” We said little more. As foreigners in his country, our opinions have no relevance to Israeli affairs. After Saturday, we did not have the chance to ask if he had changed his views about private gun ownership. The government did indeed relax some restrictions the week after the attacks.
Taking Lessons Back to America
The bloody-minded murderers who so deviously infiltrated Israel to slaughter innocents (including infants) don’t need to come across our borders in paragliders. For years, they have just walked across it. The terrorists are here in the United States — even Biden’s Department of Homeland Security admits it. We do not kid ourselves that they hate America as much as they hate Israel. Within the next year or two, we expect numerous coordinated, repetitive terror attacks here at home. We pray to God we are proven wrong, but preparation is superior to hope.
We returned gratefully to our beloved country having learned many lessons which we realize apply not only to us but to all Americans.
Never be complacent about the deadly risk of terrorism. These people are here in our country now, invisible, planning. They mean us terrible harm and know how to deliver it.
Don’t think Biden’s open border is somebody else’s problem. It is ours, today, with dire consequences we must deal with for decades to come.
Don’t take comfort in or settle for a “tech” border wall. Cyberattacks do not penetrate or disable a 30-foot wall.
Never take for granted that today’s peaceful life will be tomorrow’s too. Don’t be caught like so many Israelis — defenseless, panicked, waiting for police or military who will not arrive to save you. Never assume that “somebody will protect us” from terror attacks. Be prepared to protect yourself.
While it is now too late to stop the internal terrorism risk here, we can try to reduce the damage from infiltration. Build the wall and do it now.
Above all, never give up your guns. It is your only means to defend yourself and your family. Never!
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