Georgia state Sen. Russ Goodman arrives home safely from Israel with his mother after war shortens Holy Land trip


HOMERVILLE, Ga. — State Sen. Russ Goodman and his mother, Donna Kane, are safely back in southeast Georgia after having their Holy Land pilgrimage cut short by the gruesome Hamas attack on Israel last weekend.

“It was quite an ordeal,” said Goodman, who returned to Homerville on Friday, six days after Hamas militants staged a surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians.

Goodman, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Homerville, recounted standing on his hotel balcony in Israel and hearing machinegun fire and missiles going off in the distance.

Some 1,500 Hamas invaders were killed by Israeli Defense Forces and police in last weekend’s fighting.

Israel’s military on Friday directed the evacuation of 1.1 million people in northern Gaza, signaling a potential ground offensive. Israelis have bombarded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and have cut off electricity and blocked food, fuel and medicine, all of which they have pledged to continue until Hamas militants free some 150 hostages.

Goodman accompanied his mother on the Holy Land tour with about 50 other people from First Baptist Church in Fernandina Beach, Fla.

They flew into Tel Aviv and traveled north, visiting Mount Carmel, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Magdala and Jerusalem.

After leaving Jerusalem, Goodman’s tour bus traveled to Jordan, where some 50 other buses were waiting to cross the border for the drive to Amman for flights back to the U.S.

Goodman and his mother flew 36 hours from Amman with stops in Athens, Amsterdam, Atlanta before arriving in Jacksonville, the nearest major airport to their homes in Homerville.

“The good Lord wanted me to see what I saw and to experience what I experienced,” Goodman said. “I don’t know why right now, but I feel sure in time He will reveal what that reason is.”

One takeaway from the experience, he said, is a greater appreciation for the U.S.

“We as Americans don’t realize how blessed we are,” he said. “We’re protected by two oceans. The Israelis are there, surrounded by people who don’t think they even have a right to exist.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “crush” Hamas after the militants stormed into Israel, massacring civilians, including children.

Netanyahu said Hamas' atrocities included beheading soldiers, raping women, and taking the hostages.

“Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on social media.

Goodman said he’s pleased the U.S. is resolved to stand with Israel against Hamas and other forces that want to kill Israelis.

“There is evil in this world,” he said, before adding, “I thank everyone for their prayers. Those prayers and God’s grace got us home safely. I’m eternally grateful for that.”

Homerville First Baptist Pastor Paul Fulton said the congregation had been praying for the two travelers from the moment they began their trip, but felt a much deeper sense of urgency as news of the grizly Hamas attack reached the U.S.

“My first reaction was that it was just another attack in Israel, but as more news came, I realized this was something very different than earlier skirmishes,” Fulton said.

The entire congregation spent that weekend praying, and, in the Sunday morning worship service, Fulton lead the church in a time of prayer for Goodman and Kane.

“This Sunday I look forward to leading a time of praise and thanksgiving for their safe return,” he said.