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State Senator recalls trip to kibbutz attacked by Hamas

New York 45th District Republican Senator Dan Stec
Pat Bradley
New York 45th District Republican Senator Dan Stec (file)

The war between Hamas and Israel continues to intensify. One elected official from our region recently visited one of the locations that saw unspeakable attacks on October 7th.

New York state Republican Senator Dan Stec of the 45th district was one of a dozen legislators from various states invited to tour sites in Israel last December, including Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

“I was invited to go over under the America-Israel PAC. They’re there to foster the value and the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel," says Stec. "So they do these trips and I was there for about a week. We flew into Tel Aviv. We spent time in Jerusalem but we went up to the Golan Heights. We went into the West Bank and we went up to the Gaza Strip and I was in that kibbutz that’s been in the news. I met people there and was given a tour. You clearly see the fence delineating the Gaza Strip and look across the field and see Gaza City.”

Stec recalls meeting a woman who kept a collection of rocket fragments and debris that landed in the kibbutz over the years.

“They were constantly getting intermittent rocket fire, homemade rockets, in there," Stec says. "It was a fairly common occurrence there and she had collected a bunch of debris and was showing it to us. Fortunately, for her, we found out that she was out of the country when the Hamas attacked the kibbutz, but did also learn that her sister and nieces and nephews had been taken hostage.“

At the time he spoke with WAMC, Stec did not know the fate of the woman’s family. He says as an American he found it odd to see how people in Israel prepare for intermittent rocket fire.

“It’s a common occurrence to have these rockets fired indiscriminately," recalls Stec. "They’re not very accurate so it’s really a roll of the dice where they land and whether or not they do harm. So that’s their norm. Which is weird as an American. But the other thing that struck me: there were a lot of rocket shelters. And they’re mandated to be erected and everyone needs to be within 30 seconds of getting inside one of these. And they look like a concrete bus stop or a small little league dugout. It’s just a concrete structure to go inside if the siren goes off because a rocket attack is coming. These rocket shelters they’re along the roadside. They’re in playgrounds. They’re outside schools. They’re literally constructing and designing communities based on receiving shelling and rockets from Gaza or from Lebanon.”

It’s estimated that one in eight people in Kibbutz Kfar Aza were killed or taken hostage. Stec says it’s even more real as he watches new reports because he has been there.

“If it wasn’t for that trip I wouldn’t have had a personal connection," Stec notes. "I would have been watching it on the news like everyone else. And again not that I’ve kept in touch with the people that are in that kibbutz that I met. But you know it’s just I know that I was there. I’ve walked those streets and I looked at that fence that the Hamas went through to attack. And you know the day I was there it was a sunny day. They had us in their homes. They talked to us about living there and what It was like to live there. And now I’m hearing about a woman that had us in her living room and she had family members that were taken hostage.”

Governor Kathy Hochul is heading to Israel for a trip lasting through Friday, saying New York stands with the state.