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Two Tyler religious group go on interfaith trip to Israel

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TYLER (KYTX)-Two East Texas religious groups have safely returned to Tyler after an interfaith trip to Israel.

The travelers say making the visit during this violent summer in the Middle East has given them new perspective.

While violence continues to strain the relationship between Hamas and the Israeli army, the relationship between the First Presbyterian Church and Congregation Beth El was strengthened through an interfaith trip to Israel.

"Its important to go and at least get a taste and a sense of the ongoing complexity of the place," Pastor Stuart Baskin said.

The trip was led by Pastor Stuart Baskin and Rabbi Neal Katz. Katz has been to Israel many times but says this time was special.

"To me its very exciting and interesting to watch both how Jews experience it for the first time and Christians as well so it's all very eye opening for me," Katz said.

The group left before air strikes began but was in Israel when three Israeli boys were kidnapped. 

Rabbi Katz says it affected everyone.

"I think it opened their eyes to the harsher realities of living in Israel," Katz said.

That reality is living in constant fear of air strikes. But Baskin learned people in Israel live similar lives to East Texans.

"I think the most important thing they took back is Israel is full of a variety of different kinds of people who are trying very hard to make their way in the world in a place that is sometimes very hostile to them," Baskin said.

Baskin hopes the trip taught everyone to be more thoughtful.

"If my people came away a little more confused, that makes them a little more humble about their opinions and perhaps a little more willing to dig more deeply into what's going on today," Baskin said.

The two community leaders are planning on hosting this trip again.

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