SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip are dealing with the aftermath of the Palestinian militant group Hamas launching an attack from Gaza on Israel Saturday. The skyline of Gaza is filled with plumes of smoke after Israel declared war and retaliated.

Skyline of Tel Aviv / photo submitted by Todd Pharis

But just a week ago the atmosphere within Israel was different as Sioux Falls couple Todd and Patty Pharis visited the Middle Eastern country. They recalled what their tour guide said to them after every excursion.

“He’d say, ‘Do you feel safe’ and we felt very safe. It was an enjoyable trip, everything was wonderful. And he said, ‘Go back and tell your friends it’s safe here and we want you to come visit Israel,'” Patty Pharis said.

They had even planned on going back themselves just this week.

“And little did we know within seven days they would have a worse war than 50 years ago and probably the worst war going on in 75 years,” Todd Pharis said.

Todd and Patty Pharis at the Jordan River / photo submitted by Todd Pharis

They still hope to one day return to Israel.

“Well that’s going to be interesting too because it’s going to be a while before people have the confidence to travel back, you know. Cairo went through this fifteen years ago when they had the uprising and took 15 years for people to have the confidence to go back,” Todd Pharis said.

But for now, the Pharis’s are watching from home as the places they had been just a week ago are devastated.

“And the one thing with our group, when they email back and forth, nobody is saying, ‘Too bad for us.’ They’re all, ‘Let’s pray for those that are affected by this terrorism.’ Because there’s so many families,” Todd Pharis said.

“Hopefully it will de-escalate, not escalate. Time will tell,” Patty Pharis said.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, as well as South Dakota Representative Dusty Johnson and South Dakota Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds all posted on social media this weekend stating their support for Israel.