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Local Group Heads To Israel Amid Violence Surge

Posted at 10:15 PM, Mar 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-16 23:54:42-04

Members of a Nashville group have decided not to cancel their trip to Israel shortly after a Vanderbilt MBA student was killed in a Palestinian stabbing attack.

Mark Freedman has visited Israel more than 80 times. 

PHOTOS: Local Group Heads To Israel Amid Violence Surge

"This is at an agricultural kibbutz, a collective farm," he said, gesturing toward pictures from a trip a couple years ago. Freedman is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and he's gearing up to lead the largest local group trip to the Jewish holy land ever at the end of the month.

"To be sending 83 people from the Nashville Jewish community to Israel is unprecedented," he said.

The group will explore cities both ancient and modern, tailoring each day of their 7-10 day trip to their interests.

"Each day participants will be able to choose from art and culture, politics and history, archeology, adventure," he said.

But it's a tough time in the tiny country of 8 million people. Lone wolf terrorists, oftentimes Palestinian, are credited with hundreds of random acts of violence over the last six months, killing 34 people and wounding more than 400 others according to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

And just last week an American army vet and Vanderbilt graduate student was killed in a stabbing attack outside Tel Aviv.

"When you think about any of the worst nightmare scenarios this certainly fits into them," said Owen Management School Dean M. Eric Johnson.

Taylor Force was in Israel to work with startups along with a group from Vanderbilt. No other students were hurt.

"That was a terrible tragedy, the loss of that young man," Freedman said sadly.

He says his group has security measures in place that he can't discuss. And he points out that violence can happen anywhere.

"Even with all of the difficulties Israel has experienced lately we haven't had a single person drop off of the trip," he said.

He says if anything, now is the time for friends of Israel to show their support.

"As important as it is to stand with Israel, it's important to stand in Israel," he said.