CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — For as long as she could remember, Tina Brown’s dream was to explore Israel’s natural wonders and all the religious history that it holds. In early October, she saw that dream come true ahead of her 60th birthday. But in the middle of her church’s 12-day mission trip, Brown and her group were caught up in the beginning of a war.
“It’s always been my dream to go to Israel,” Brown said. “It’s a dream come true and I’m so grateful that I got to go. And I was there for some pretty amazing events that unfolded.”
Brown, a West Virginia native currently living in Oklahoma, had been visiting Israel since Oct. 1. On the morning of Oct. 7, the day Hamas attacked multiple Israeli towns during the Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah on Shabbat, Brown and her group took the bus to the famous Temple Mount without a second thought.
While visiting, they were looking north out toward the Temple Mount when they noticed something was off.
“Behind the Temple Mount, it usually is a sky filled with blue skies and clouds, but it was all gray skies and smoke,” Brown said. “And, you know, it was very eerie and then all of a sudden, we looked up and there were rockets going off above our head and we were protected by the Iron Dome. And it was almost like being in a snow globe where you’re surrounded by the Iron Dome, protected by God himself and it’s almost—was like being in a dream.”
The Iron Dome is Israel’s missile defense system and is designed to take down incoming projectiles in the air within seconds of their launch into the state.
“That kind of technology and that kind of protection is amazing. I was just very thankful to God for the Iron Dome and for God’s protection over there,” Brown said. She continued, “I didn’t know what to think. I’ve never been in a war before… It was pretty scary.”
Two days before the trip, Brown had some doubts. She said she looked to God for an answer and asked him if it was safe for her to go.
“And it’s like he showed me a ‘U’ around me that I didn’t understand. I thought, ‘What is this?’” Brown said.
Brown said she didn’t know what it was when it first appeared to her, but she always felt that it was somehow His protection over her.
“So when I get over there, I understood what it was: It was the Iron Dome that God was showing me,” Brown said. She continued, “Although it was scary, although I knew I could die, I had this blessed assurance because I know where I’m going to be when I die.”
After seeing the rockets, Brown and her group of 32 went back to their hotel, Sergei Palace where they were told to head downstairs to a bunker if they heard sirens.
“I went up to the room, I’m packing my bags thinking, ‘You know, we’re gonna get out of here, you know. We’re going back home,’” Brown said. “I was getting ready but I was all alone when the sirens went off. I put my backpack on and I was running and huffing and puffing, going down the stairs. Frantic, you know, because I was all alone.”
Brown said she was able to safely make it inside the bunker where she and her group stayed for hours. Inside, Brown said that people from all walks of life and religions came together with some people even singing Country Roads.
“I was singing Country Roads and the Russians were playing ‘Country Roads, Take Me Home’ by John Denver, and they did everything that they could to make us comfortable and make us laugh,” Brown said.
Brown said that going through all of this really made her miss her family and home in West Virginia. After she left the bunker, she said she called her dad and told him she wanted to “come back home to my mountains in West Virginia” and “sit on the porch of my cabin.”
After leaving the bunker, Brown said she was conflicted about whether she should go back home. She said she talked to her pastor who helped her check in with herself and see what next step to take. Despite Brown’s children asking her to come back immediately, she decided after much prayer and looking for an answer from God to stay and finish out her trip.
Despite the attack and Israel’s declaration of war on Oct. 8, Brown and her group were able to safely continue their trip and come back home as scheduled.