ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Dr. Jeremy Deweerdt, a senior pastor at Rockford’s City First Church, was in Israel right as Hamas sent missiles into the country.
The pastor was with his wife and two friends visiting the Holy Sites of Israel. As a pastor, Deweerdt said that it was important for him to visit the land. That visit changed quickly as 30 minutes before landing in Tel Aviv, Hamas sent rockets into the southern part of Israel.
“We landed at the airport, we realized what had happened and it was definitely a tense environment,” Deweerdt said.
Deweerdt said he wasted no time trying to make his way out of the danger.
“Since the war was beginning to escalate, we needed to get out of the country. We had already pushed our flights earlier, but unfortunately, all the flights coming in and out of Tel Aviv airport were being canceled because of the danger of being so close to the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The pastor and those with him were guided by someone always holding a gun. They could also hear explosions from where they were in Israel. This only added to the worry the vacationers were feeling.
“What we did is, we decided very last minute that we would try to go through a northern border and cross over into Jordan, and that we would try to book flights out of Oman,” said Deweerdt.
After a flight from Dubai to Amsterdam, Deweerdt eventually made it back to the United States. He says that those experiences he had will stay with him.
“I was talking to my friends in Israel,” Dr. Deweerdt said. “They said that with that many people that died over even the last week, most likely everyone in Israel is going to know someone who’s a victim.”
City First Church Congregation gave $24,000 in aid to those in Israel. Pastor Jeremy says the church will do what it can to give support from here in Rockford.
“We, as a global community, us here in the stateline, especially at City First, as Christ followers, I believe we need to stand with Israel and we need to stand with those that have been terrorized,” he said.
Deweerdt said he does hope to travel back to Israel one day.