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The Shawnee News-Star
  • OBU president’s Israel trip to continue

  • A trip to Israel planned by Oklahoma Baptist President David Whitlock and others will go on as scheduled.

    Whitlock and a group of 80, including OBU students, alumni and churchgoers from around the state, will leave for a 10-day Biblical tour of the Holy Land on Tuesday.
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  • A trip to Israel planned by Oklahoma Baptist President David Whitlock and others will go on as scheduled.
    Whitlock and a group of 80, including OBU students, alumni and churchgoers from around the state, will leave for a 10-day Biblical tour of the Holy Land on Tuesday.
    The fighting in the Gaza Strip region seems to have slowed as both sides agreed to a mutual ceasefire after almost two months of violence. Both Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas on Wednesday claimed victory in the conflict.
    “I am encouraged with the latest news coming out of Israel and am excited to continue the trip as planned,” Whitlock said in a phone interview.
    Whitlock said the group had never planned on visiting any areas where fighting was prevalent.
    “I don’t think we’ve made any major changes,” he said. “Most of the places we were planning to go were well known places all sides of the conflict have an interest in preserving.”
    The group, he added, does have contingency plans in place should something go wrong.
    Surrey Hills Pastor Wendell Lang one of the group’s organizers, said he’s talked to people from different churches in Israel and visiting now, they say, poses no more of a threat than at other times.
    “They’re saying it’s just business as usual,” Lang said.
    Lang said the irreplaceable experience associated with a trip to the Holy Land and the decreasing violence in the area was enough to keep the trip as planned.
    For many in the group, Lang said, it will be their first time visiting the region. Lang, who has been to Israel multiple times, still remembers his first trip.
    “It’s a life-changing experience,” he said. “As a pastor, it’s great to finally visualize the places you’ve preached about.”
    Though rocket fire has paused, tensions still exist between Hamas and Israel.
    Hamas, a Palestinian, political organization recognized by the United States as a terrorist group, wants a restricting blockade on the Gaza Strip eliminated. Netanyahu has agreed to momentarily loosen restrictions on Gaza to allow for civilian recovery and rebuilding in the war-torn region.
    Israel, meanwhile, wants Hamas to disarm.
    Seventy Israelis and more than 2,000 Palestinians have died in the 50 days of conflict.

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