Iowa Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats is scheduled to travel to Israel next week.
“It’s a short trip,” Vander Plaats says. “We leave Sunday night and I believe we’re back already Thursday morning.”
Vander Plaats will be among a group of 12 Americans, including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who were invited to make the trip. They’ll meet another dozen Americans who are living in Israel.
“And it’s to show Christian solidarity behind the nation of Israel,” Vander Plaats says.
Christian conservatives in the U.S. are among the strongest supporters for the Jewish state. The trip is organized by Christians United for Israel, a group with over a million members that seeks to build support within the United States for the nation of Israel.
“There’s going to be some neat meetings and we’re going to get some special access to really witness and look at things while we’re in Israel,” Vander Plaats says. “So I’m looking forward to see what that is and reporting back about what we saw.”
Vander Plaats has never visited Israel before, although a trip there has been on the “bucket list” for Vander Plaats and his wife, Darla.
“Darla’s quite jealous, to be frank, because she’d like to be going, not necessarily when it’s so hostile over there right now,” Vander Plaats says, “but I don’t think it’s ever completely stable when you go to Israel.”
A group of American pastors — one from each state — recently returned from a trip to Israel organized by the same group that’s set up the travel plan for Vander Plaats.
Israel and Hamas have had three major clashes in the past six years. The latest started in July, as Israel invaded Gaza to destroy underground tunnels that led into Israel. A tentative cease fire has been in place this week, but on Wednesday a journalist, his translator and three Palestinian bomb disposal workers were killed as they tried to defuse a bomb. A child was killed and two adults were injured when a rocket landed on their home south of Gaza, in Egypt. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been underway in Egypt, trying to find a resolution to the conflict. Israelis and Egyptians have security concerns about Hamas, its activities in Gaza and its connection to Iran.