Families of people held hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip hold photographs of their loved ones during a protest outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Oct. 21, 2023. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
The Alabama-Israel Task Force is working on an initiative with the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot, Bring the Hostages Back, to form a coalition of churches “to help be the voice for the voiceless.” They hope that hundreds will join.
During the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that left 1400 Israelis dead, over 200 were abducted and brought back to Gaza, where they are being held.
One of the areas that came under attack was Sderot. Eeki Elner, founder and executive director of the ILI, said his institution “has had a deep and meaningful relationship” with groups like AITF and pro-Israel organizations in Ohio.
The initiative asks churches and pastors to “amplify our voice” by joining the coalition and standing with the Jewish people, mobilize prayer for the hostages, communicate updates to the broader community, and if possible donate $180, 10 times the symbolic number for life in Hebrew, to help fund the campaign.
Patrick Penn of The Dwelling Place in Huntsville urged fellow pastors to join the coalition. ‘We need you,” he said. The Dwelling Place, which has hosted pro-Israel events in the past, is holding weekly prayer sessions for Israel.
John Buhler, co-founder of AITF, urged pastors to sign up because “time is short… as in the days of Esther, may we arise and not be silent.”
Elner asked the churches “to stand as one and demand the releasing of the innocent kidnapped civilians.”
Once the ground operation starts in Gaza, Elner said, world opinion will “give us a cold shoulder” and the media will castigate Israel as the Hamas atrocities are forgotten. “These 220 hostages have no voice. We need to be their voice.”
He added, “we need to have the churches stand with us. The churches have been in the past few weeks quiet about Israel. I’ve hardly seen many pastors or influentials talking about what happened in Israel.”
Gal Hirsch, a former ILI board chair and resident of Rosh Ha’Ayin, was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be Israel’s hostage envoy. In 2017, he was the featured speaker at an AITF gala in the Decatur area.