Warning: Graphic descriptions of Hamas torture are included below.
Everyone who’s witnessed the aftermath of Hamas — who’s stepped inside the charred houses or walked the bloody streets of a kibbutz after October 7 — has been changed. Like so many people who’ve seen pictures of the destruction on news sites across America, nothing prepared Franklin Graham for the sight of real graves, of bullet-holed walls, and haunted survivors. “These communities are empty,” he said somberly, but the echoes of their tragedies live on.
Back from the Israel-Gaza border, Billy Graham’s son tried to put into words the barbarity and destruction he saw. “The people have had to flee,” he explained to “Washington Watch” guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice. “They can’t live that close to the border with the fighting, so they’re in hotels throughout the country.” Instead, Graham said, “The Israeli army is there — a lot of them.”
Scanning what remained of the houses — some in rubble from rockets, others black from fire’s ash — Graham walked through the ravaged neighborhoods. “They took me to the command centers to show me the video pictures from just their surveillance cameras on that day.” He remembers seeing truckloads of people, streaming across the borders “with “heavy machine guns in the back of the trucks, with soldiers or terrorists that jump out and just shoot people on the side of the road and go on.”
“And then you meet people and talk to people that lived through this and somehow escaped, but they lost loved ones.” That was difficult, he admits. “I met a woman whose husband was a doctor, and they remember they didn’t know what was going on. At 7:30 in the morning, they just heard some gunshots. And this doctor said, ‘Please come to the clinic.’ And so he runs to the clinic, which was maybe a block away, and there he was shot. All the patients were shot.”
Graham relayed horror after horror. “Hand grenades were thrown into the clinic. Women were captured, raped. One was raped, and while the man was doing this act, he takes a gun and shoots her in the head. And then things like cutting their breasts off and throwing their breasts like a like a football to each other.” He stopped. “I’ve never witnessed brutality like this. And some of the terrorists that were captured were asked, ‘Why did you kidnap children? Why did you take children as hostages so that they could rape them?’ And it’s like every demon in hell was let loose.”
He met with families still stunned by shock and grief. “It’s had a huge impact,” Graham insisted. “And I just pray for these families that have lost their loved ones. I pray for the families who have loved ones down in those tunnels that were taken hostage. One lady who lost her daughter, whose daughter was killed in that [same] clinic, she said, ‘I’m so glad my daughter is dead.’ She said, ‘I wouldn’t know what to do if she was a hostage. I wouldn’t know how to handle that.’ But just the fear that’s in people’s hearts.”
Graham says he tried to pray with “everybody I met.” “I would quote Old Testament Scripture to them and remind them of God’s promises and His love. … And they were so appreciative of prayer.” He tried to remind them that “the only one that can heal their hearts is God, and He’s the God of all comfort.”
Meeting with the parents whose sons and daughters were kidnapped and taken into Gaza was especially heart-wrenching. “I prayed for these mothers,” he told Hice, “for their children and loved ones that are down in those tunnels that are being held hostage. I said, ‘[They’re] not down there alone. God is there with them.’ And we would pray that God would put his loving arms around those hostages, and that they would sense the presence of God as we prayed. And everyone was so appreciative of prayer. [Their] people are hungry spiritually. They don’t have any answers. They’re not getting answers from anyone. And when you pray for them, it touches their heart.”
Including, Graham said, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “First of all, I wanted to encourage him. … And so we talked for a while. But then I asked him, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, is it okay if I pray for you?’ And he was very appreciative of that. And we prayed and just prayed that God would give him wisdom and strengthen him and guide and direct him as they move forward here in these next few weeks and months. It’s going to be very difficult, and I just pray that God would just be with him and strengthen him.”
For now, the evangelist wanted people to know, Samaritan’s Purse is going to be “working there for some time.” “We’ve got great teams on the ground helping those [who] are stuck in the hotels and have no place to go.” But for everyone here at home, he said there’s one thing we can all do: pray. Pray for the hurting families, pray for Israel’s leadership and America’s leadership, but most of all, Graham urged, pray for the church and volunteers. “Pray that we will be faithful to lift up Christ wherever we go.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
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