DENVER (KDVR) — It was just moments after stepping off the plane at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, that Rich Sokol was hit with the gravity of the situation.
Lining the walls of the terminal walkway were hundreds of posters, representing the 240 hostages reportedly taken by Hamas militants.
“It’s just barbaric, it’s inhumane,” Sokol said. “It’s hard to grasp.”
Sokol has family in Israel, and quickly made the decision to travel there to help after the conflict began.
He said it didn’t take long to realize the new “norm” in Jerusalem.
“The very first night I was there we were having our Shabbat dinner, and all of a sudden, we heard a boom, and I jumped, and my relatives just went on eating their soup like nothing had happened. What it was, was an iron dome interceptor rocket intercepting one of the Hamas mortars heading towards Jerusalem.”
He said he was also struck by how empty everything was, from the airport to the nearby marketplace.
An estimated 360,000 reservists have been called into action, and Sokol said their absence was noticeable.
“360,000 people in Israel getting called up out of a total population of 9 million, it’s very significant,” he said. “So, every business is hurting. A lot of Arab workers come in from the Palestinian Territories every day, and obviously, because of the war, they’re not. Those workers usually work on farms, so there’s so many Israeli farmers who literally have their fruits and vegetables wilting on the vine. So, my brother-in-law and I went and we picked pomegranates for a day.”
He said they also spent time making food for Israeli soldiers, who were appreciative of the support.
“What they really cared about wasn’t my barbecue skills, it was that we were there and that we put our arms around them and said the nation of Israel lives and we are with you,” said Sokol.