Sydney Adventist caught up in Israel-Hamas conflict

Vani Cranston

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Vani Cranston was on a Bible lands tour when the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted. Getting out of there was a harrowing ordeal.

Vani Cranston, a member of Hoxton Park Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sydney, Australia, was excited to be going on a tour of the Holy land. It was a holiday she had planned to take for a long time. Vani booked with a group of 20 people from Australia and Fiji. They were from different faiths including Methodist, Assemblies of God and Catholic. Vani was the only Adventist. Every morning and evening they came together for morning and evening worship which sustained them during the ordeal that was to follow.

Arriving in Tel Aviv on September 26 they boarded their coach and headed for Nazareth as their first stop. It was beautiful weather, and the first week was idyllic as they visited the Sea of Galilee, Mount Tabor, Jezreel and Capernaum.

On October 1 they were in Jerusalem and spent the first few days sightseeing. On Sabbath morning they were due to travel into Jordan. It was early morning, and they could hear gunshots and explosions in the distance but had no inkling of anything untoward.

The plan was for the tour group to be dropped at the border of Jordan and they were to walk across where another bus would take them to their next destination. This is when they first learned that a terrorist attack had taken place in Israel. Because of that, the border into Jordan was closed.
They quickly returned to Jerusalem to their hotel where they were told to stay indoors and wait for instructions from their tour operator. Because it was the Jewish Sabbath, outside nothing was happening. Vani and her group became increasingly worried as they could see from TV reports that Israel was under attack, although they could not understand the language.

They contacted the Australian Embassy Foreign Affairs who were marvellous and stayed in contact with them throughout their ordeal. As it was unsafe to stay in Jerusalem, it was decided to head back to Galilee. Enroute, the roads were full of tanks and trucks with missiles. Soldiers and even young children with guns were standing around waiting for their orders.

The Embassy contact told them to stay for a few days in Galilee until they could clear the way for more evacuations as Tel Aviv airport was jammed with people trying to get out. Returning to Jerusalem they found that their Emirates flight home had been cancelled.

Sabbath morning, they were headed to the airport. The tour guide was surprised to see a train running on the Sabbath. It was ready to evacuate women and children from Gaza.

Arriving at the airport, as they were unloading their bags from the coach, an air raid siren sounded, and a missile was seen flying overhead and intercepted midair. Soldiers and police came from everywhere to usher them into the terminal. Leaving their bags, they were ordered to lie on the floor until the danger had passed.

The Australian Embassy official at the airport was exceedingly kind and helpful. It took three days for them to eventually get onto a flight. It was a very stressful time.

Finally leaving Tel Aviv, they flew to Abu Dhabi. There they would be met by someone from the Consulate who would take them to Dubai, but this did not eventuate, and they had to take taxis to Dubai, a drive of one and-a-half hours.

From Dubai, after more delays, they were put on a flight to Sydney and Vani said, “What a feeling of relief and thankfulness to God for His mercy in taking care of us and bringing us home safely.”

Vani said Psalm 91 was a psalm that had come to mind as she was waiting to get out of Israel, especially verse 11 where it says, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.”

Sandra Lehn attends Hoxton Park church, Sydney, NSW.

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