A group of more than fifty Holy Land pilgrims from a church in Florida, have arrived back in the US, after managing to fly home from Israel.
Pastor Alan Brumback, who was on the trip with his family, and dozens from his congregation, shared in a Facebook live update from Jerusalem, that the group was booked on flight out of Tel Aviv just after midnight on Thursday.
The group, from First Baptist Church in Naples, had arrived in the Holy Land on 2nd October, for a 10 day trip.
It was a chance of a lifetime visit they had been planning for almost a year. Tickets were sold out, with participants raising nearly $6,000 each for a guided tour through the land of Israel.
Invited to travel "from coast to desert and mountains to valleys, visiting the places where important Biblical events took place and digging deep into the Scriptures in their original context to learn about God’s faithfulness to His people— in the past, present, and future", the tour was due to include sites from the Old and New Testaments as well as the history of modern Israel, although from the start the church's website mentioned that "security concerns" might lead to changes to the itinerary.
Events did not go as planned. According to Pastor Brumback, they managed to visit the Western Wall, and spent time praying for Jerusalem, before Hamas gunmen launched their surprise attack, leading to Israel's deadliest day. In response, Israeli Defence Forces carried out its heaviest ever bombardment of Gaza.
Hamas took dozens of people captive inside Israel - including some Americans, using them as human shields to prevent retaliatory attacks.
Pastor Brumback said he was able to keep his group safe in their hotel, with enough food and water. He led his parishioners in songs and prayers as they waited to be evacuated.
He said on social media: "We're going to turn the worries into worship, and we're going to turn fear into faith... we are not going to let the enemy steal our joy."