Arizonans Steve Hilton, Jonathan Hoffer and Jason Morris decided to take a few days in the United Arab Emirates “to see the site of the Abraham Accords” before heading to Israel for their fifth annual men’s mission trip, which was set to begin on Monday, Oct. 9. That’s where the three were on Saturday, when they learned of the horrific news that Hamas militants had successfully launched a surprise attack into Israel that morning.
By Saturday night, the trio had canceled the official trip — “at the very last moment before the guys were supposed to get on the plane,” Hilton told Jewish News in an email. However, the three men decided to go to Israel themselves to see what, if anything, they could do to help, even though it meant going against the wishes of family and friends. After arriving in the country, they purchased a variety of toiletries and essential items to distribute to soldiers abruptly called to serve.
Hilton, Hoffer and Morris also had the opportunity to hear from Israelis themselves, such as one of their former guides, who broke into tears telling them that his son’s best friend had just been killed in Gaza.
The three men also spoke with a security guard from Sderot, a western Negev town less than 3,000 feet from Gaza that they have visited many times. The guard told them of being in a firefight with multiple Hamas gunmen, who had just shot two unarmed civilians in a car. Fortunately, the guard was able to pull the children out of the vehicle and to safety.
A 20-year-old Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier, who was posted along the Gaza border with roughly 50 other female soldiers in their 20s, told them in stark detail how 20 of them were raped and murdered by Hamas terrorists before her eyes.
“She wanted people to know the brutality of what happened,” Hilton told more than 100 people who joined him on a Zoom call Tuesday morning. The three men had gone to Israel to bear witness to the devastation and shared their accounts with people back home, who had been following the news from afar.
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