ISRAEL (WANE) – A 10-day friendship tour to Israel for a group of YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne members – quickly turned into a situation they were not expecting. Tim Hallman, director of Christian Emphasis, Greater Fort Wayne YMCA and 4 others were the local group that traveled to Israel Saturday.

Hallman says it’s been complicated.

“But to hear the death and destruction that has been going on here for a very long time we know how complicated things are,” said Hallman.

Tim Hallman (second from the left) and the rest of the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne group in Israel.

Hallman said that as their plane was landing on Saturday, they saw on the news that Rockets were being launched from Gaza. Hallman said he knew their plans were going to change instantly. The East Jerusalem YMCA works closely with the Jerusalem International and West Jerusalem YMCA – that’s where the Greater Fort Wayne YMCA group has been staying since Saturday afternoon.

Hallman says they certainly were not prepared for what they were about to experience.

“Devastated, obviously disappointed for our team that has been preparing this trip for a long time to meet the people of the land here,” Hallman said. “Trying to pray with them support them and listen to their stories and everyone is really scared.”

Hallman mentioned that the Jerusalem International YMCA they are staying at is the safest place they can be right now. Most of the people who have died have been civilians. The soonest this group can leave will be on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a press release sent to WANE 15, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church had 35 individuals in northern Israel on a Redeemer Radio-sponsored pilgrimage to the Holy Land when the conflict began. Redeemer Radio worked quickly with the agency overseeing the trip and determined that the best course of action would be to remove all of their pilgrims from Israel as soon as possible. According to the press release, all pilgrims have left Israel and are on their way back to the United States.

Governor Eric Holcomb has asked that all businesses and residents of Indiana have their flags flown at half-staff to honor the lives lost in Israel.