People mourn at the graveside of Eden Guez during her funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. She was killed while attending a festival that was attacked by Hamas gunmen from Gaza. OSV News photo/Violeta Santos Moura, Reuters

Pilgrims pray as Israeli families mourn loved ones

By  Judith Sudilovsky, OSV News
  • October 10, 2023

JERUSALEM -- Pilgrims who were in Israel following a surprise terrorist attack by Hamas terrorists against civilian communities in southern Israel Oct. 7 lit candles and said prayers of peace at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as fighting continued in southern Israel.

"I have been praying much more since this happened," said Jan Ulelenbroch, 53, a former priest from Kassel, Germany, who serves as a pastor at Catholic hospital and was on a personal spiritual retreat to the Holy Land.

Having completed a spiritual exercise retreat at the Benedictine Dormition Abbey in the Old City, Ulelenbroch said he had been informed that his planned spiritual retreat at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee had been canceled. He also had no immediate way of returning home as most flights to and from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv had been canceled.

"I am praying for peace for all of Israel and Palestine and a solution to this war," he said.

The church was empty save for a few pilgrim groups.

"My family is very worried, but I feel safe. The Holy Spirit is with me," said Miriam Cruz, who is originally from Mexico and lives in Chicago. "It is very sad that innocent people were killed and people are suffering, but I have never felt Jesus' presence more personally with me than during this war."

Israeli security forces continued to flush out Hamas terrorists who had killed at least 900 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a day of carnage, according to an Israeli Embassy spokesperson Oct. 9. Eleven American citizens were killed in the attacks. Another 2,500 people were reported wounded, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson told CBS News Oct. 9. Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had killed more than 687 people as of that Monday, including at least 140 children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, while there were still reports of infiltration attempts along Israeli borders. According to the Israeli army, 13 terrorists are still in the territory of southern Israel.

Jerusalem came under rocket attack on the first day of the war and two air raid sirens sounded Oct. 9 as several Hamas-launched rockets landed in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Fighter jets could be heard flying overhead toward Gaza. Israel retaliated in aerial attacks on Hamas targets which left whole exclusive neighborhoods where Hamas targets were located flattened.

Alistair Dutton, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis, posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that Caritas was "deeply concerned" with the situation in Gaza and Israel.

"Caritas Jerusalem had to suspend its activities but has prepared an emergency plan to offer assistance as soon as the situation allows. We pray for peace and urge both sides to uphold international law," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he had ordered a total siege of the Gaza Strip, cutting off food, fuel and electricity to the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the enclave. "I have given an order -- Gaza will be under complete closure. There will be no electricity, food or fuel (delivered to Gaza),” said Gallant in remarks at Israel’s Southern Command, according to a transcript released by the Israeli government.

The IDF announced today that 123 soldiers had been killed in battles with the terrorists. 

Numbers of the civilians who are missing and those who are dead are still unclear. Foreigners are among the dead. Tens of Israeli civilians including young children, women and elderly were taken captive from Israel to Gaza.

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