A church tour group from Langley and the Fraser Valley had to hunker down in their hotel after the Hamas attacks from Gaza broke out last weekend.
All 26 members of the tour of the Holy Land are okay, said Langley’s SouthRidge Fellowship Church’s Executive Pastor Paul Olson.
The trip, the first of its kind since the COVID-19 pandemic, was visiting several countries, starting in Egypt and continuing to Israel and Jordan, visiting Biblical sites. The bulk of the members of the tour are from SouthRidge, but members of several other churches participated as well.
The group started in Egypt on Oct. 1, and then arrived in Israel the day before the Israel-Hamas War began with an attack by Hamas forces from Gaza on Oct. 7.
The tour group was in Masada, south of Jerusalem and close to the border with Jordan, and not too close to the worst of the fighting.
“They had to hunker down in the hotel they were in,” said Olson.
They couldn’t leave the building for the first few days.
“They heard a few rockets, they heard some distant blasts,” Olson said, and they saw troop movements of the Israeli military nearby.
But after a few days, the group was again allowed to leave the hotel. They headed into Jordan, continuing part of their interrupted tour, and were hoping to be able to come back to Canada on schedule on Sunday, Oct. 15 on their Air Canada flight.
One member of the group chose not to re-enter Israel from Jordan and flew home at their own expense instead.
The others are waiting to see what happens, but so far they’ve had trouble communicating with both the government of Canada and the airline.
The main communication from the Canadian consulate was advice to avoid the area around Gaza, which was fairly obvious, said Olson.
Although there have been possible plans for Canadian government-organized flights out of the country, the group hasn’t been in the loop.
“At this point they haven’t heard anything from the Canadian government even though they’ve registered with them,” Olson said.