Unrest in Israel has church leaders across the state weighing the risk of an upcoming mission trip.
There are major concerns about the recent surge in violence in the region.
Surrey Hills Baptist Church Pastor Wendell Lane has planned a 10-day trip to Israel in September. Eighty people from across the state have already committed, but now they're wondering if the trip should be canceled.
“We’re leaning on the government, we’re leaning on the ministry of tourism and we’re leaning on our travel agent to give us good direction as to whether or not it’s going to be safe,” Pastor Lane said.
Lane is no stranger to the Middle East. He's been to Israel six times in his life, and he says there's never been a time when safety wasn't a concern.
“If you wait until there is never going to be conflict in Israel, then you’ll never go,” Lane said.
Pastor Lane says there are now new concerns. Israel is fighting the militant group Hamas in Gaza, and already, more than 680 Palestinians and 34 Israelis have died since missile fire began.
“Rather than threats of war, there really is legitimate conflict right now,” Lane said.
In a statement from the Israeli tourism commissioner, the U.S. State Department advised American citizens to consider deferring non-essential travel to the country, but the commissioner also points out that tourism is continuing, and holy places are open as usual.
At this point, no ban has been proposed, although they're urging Americans to "consider" the situation.
“Our trip is about six weeks from now, and so of course we have some concern,” Lane added.
The Israeli tourism commissioner says some 75,000 tourists are in the country right now, and their travel arrangements are proceeding as planned.