DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) — Pastor Glenn Goodwin has taken members of his church to Israel around a dozen times.
“We had one scheduled to start Sunday,” said Goodwin with Gospel Assembly Church in Urbandale. “I got here last Wednesday. Things were calm, normal. No one was expecting any kind of a problem. And about 6:30 in the morning on Saturday the air raid sirens started going and then shortly after that there were rockets arriving.”
What was supposed to be an eight-day tour of the Holy Land turned into a shelter-in-place in Tel Aviv as Pastor Goodwin along with 18 other Iowans waited for some way to come back home.
The tour was originally supposed to include 29 people, but 11 Iowans on a flight turned around before landing on Saturday.
“Ever since it started we’ve been able to hear explosions in the distance, we’re not that far from the Gaza Strip, maybe 40 miles. So we hear the bombardment of the Gaza. And we’ve also heard the Hamas rockets….some of those rockets have hit here in Tel Aviv,” said Goodwin.
He described that the group is able to differentiate the sounds of missiles now, the ones Hamas is sending into Israel, the shells going into Gaza, and the sound of the iron dome shooting down rockets. Goodwin said that every time the Iron Dome misses a rocket there is an air raid siren that plays, prompting everyone in Tel Aviv to seek shelter. The alarm will stop, the group will hear a loud explosion when it hits, and then it’s back to figuring out how to make it home.
As of right now, Goodwin said that everyone is okay and they are just figuring out how they can get back to the United States.
“It’s been really difficult because these airlines have canceled tickets. We have looked at alternatives, we spend several hours every day….trying to get to any other destination out of here where we could then catch flights back to the U.S., and every time we’ve gotten flights, they’ve been canceled,” said Goodwin.
The group had tickets to get out of Israel on Tuesday morning, but those flights were canceled too.
U.S. Congressman Zach Nunn told WHO 13 News on Tuesday that he has been in communication with the group and he is actively trying to help them get out of the country safely.
“Right now it is very difficult. There are still rockets being fired into Israel by Hamas and it is dangerous for everyone on the ground, let alone trying to fly an aircraft into an airport under siege,” said Rep. Nunn, (R) Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. “Tel Aviv is taking rockets hourly at this point. One of the things we have looked at as we move a carrier strike group into the Mediterranean, doing a military evacuation of that personnel. Using aircraft capable on that aircraft carrier strike group, as well as potential sea evacuation for individuals still trapped in Israel right now.”
Nunn said that he and others are pressuring the State Department to make sure United States citizens make it home safely.
With everyone in Goodwin’s group doing okay and able to talk to family members back home; the pastor says the group is taking comfort in their faith.
“Everyone realizes that, you know, we got to make the best of this situation. Everyone would love to be home, but we can’t. And we’re thankful to be safe. We have a group of Christians that came here for the Holy Land tour and we have faith in the Lord that he’s going to watch over us,” said Goodwin.