Ty Gibson and David Assherick, well-known Seventh-day Adventist pastors and co-directors of the Collegedale-based “Lightbearers” ministry, were in Jordan leading a “Holy Land” tour when the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched an attack on Israel. The raid began a war in the Middle East that has killed about 1,400 individuals in Israel and more than 5,000 in Gaza as of Oct. 23, according to the United Nations (UN).
“Early Sabbath morning, Oct. 7, we visited Mount Nebo, where Moses was laid to rest by God after looking out over the Promised Land he would never enter, only to then be resurrected and taken to the heavenly Canaan after a battle ensued over his body between Satan and the pre-incarnate Christ (Jude 1:9),” Gibson wrote in a Facebook post following the attack. “David and I both heard explosions in the distance while we stood with our group on Mount Nebo.”
Gibson continued to describe how the tour group quickly mobilized to return home as family and friends began texting them details of the escalating conflict, urging them to get out.
“My daughter Amber, who was with us for the first tour and had departed, texted me: ‘You need to come home,’” Gibson wrote.
Each of the 161 individuals in the group successfully booked flights and made it home “safe and sound,” Gibson later posted. After returning home, Asscherick uploaded a live video on Instagram with Gibson, where they both reflected on the experience.
The recent conflict in Israel and Gaza has reverberated far beyond the Middle East, affecting communities worldwide. Southern Adventist University is no exception, with students and professors taking action to discuss the war and pray for those impacted.
According to information on the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) website, Hamas is an Islamist militant movement and one of the Palestinian territories’ two major political parties. The group is best known for its armed resistance against Israel, the website explains. Hamas’ attack on Israel was unprecedented in tactics and scale, CNN reported.
In response to the initial attack, Israel declared war against Hamas and implemented an aid blockade in Gaza, cutting off water, food and supplies. Since Oct. 7, the two sides of the conflict have “traded daily rocket fire,” CFR reported. Approximately two million people live in the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip territory, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world, according to an article published on CNN’s website.
Landon Asscherick, son of David Assherick, is a junior business administration major at Southern. He told the Accent that he kept in close contact with his family through texts and FaceTime while his father was in the Middle East. Although his father returned home safely, the impact of the conflict remains close to his and his family members’ hearts, Landon said. He added that his prayers are “with those involved in the conflict, particularly innocent civilians and those fighting for a righteous cause.”
The strife between the Israelis and Palestinians is the latest in an ongoing conflict that has existed since the aftermath of World War I. Palestine was among the former Ottoman territories placed under the administration of the United Kingdom by the League of Nations in 1922. The British Mandate over Palestine included the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which expressed support for establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. During the mandate period, there was a significant influx of Jewish immigrants.
On Thursday, history professors held a convocation to give students a comprehensive overview of the conflict. Professors Lisa Diller, Shannon Martin, Mills McArthur and Michael Weismeyer shared their insights on the historical context, origins and complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Weismeyer explained that the Holocaust led to an increased migration of Jews to Palestine in the 1930s, causing the United Nations to propose the creation of two independent states: one Jewish and another Palestinian. However, Jewish leaders declared their intention to establish Israel as an independent state, leading to a war in 1948 in which Israel significantly expanded its territory. Many Palestinians fled or were expelled. Since then, Israel has obtained a large amount of Palestinian land. Many countries recognize Israel as its own state, but some do not and still refer to the land as Palestine.
The next day, Southern’s Adventist Peace Fellowship chapter conducted a prayer circle for those negatively impacted by the war.