JERUSALEM (AP) — The New York governor’s father died overnight Thursday while she was visiting wartime Israel, with the governor slipping a note grieving her loss into Jerusalem’s Western Wall holy site on Thursday.
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul learned of her 87-year-old father John Courtney’s sudden death from a brain hemorrhage in Florida as she embarked on the second day of a trip to show support for Israel during its war with Hamas.
At the Western Wall, Hochul appeared to wipe away a tear before placing a handwritten note with prayers for Israel and for her father into a crack in the limestone wall.
Hochul told reporters she spoke to her father from the airport just before she departed for Israel earlier this week, a small smile peeking through as she recalled how he still talked in “his gruff Irish way.”
“He said, ‘I’m proud of you, Dolly, but keep your goddamn head down,’” Hochul said.
The governor’s sojourn comes as the Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza in retaliation for a bloody cross-border massacre by Hamas militants in southern Israel almost two weeks ago.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said Thursday that 3,785 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 12,500 others have been wounded since the outbreak of the war.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed and roughly 200 others were abducted and taken into Gaza by Hamas.
Hochul met with Israeli families displaced by the conflict, and heard painful stories from families of American citizens taken hostage by Hamas and from Israelis who have been wounded during the fighting. She also held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, reiterating New York’s solidarity with Israel.
“As the state with the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, New York and Israel share a bond that will never be broken,” Hochul posted on X, formally Twitter.
A nonprofit organization is funding travel costs for Hochul and her staff, and the state is covering the costs for her security detail, according to the governor’s office.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, flew to Israel for a 7 1/2-hour visit Wednesday that offered support for the Israeli people and urged the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Israeli airstrikes have pounded locations across the besieged Gaza Strip, including parts of the south that Israel had declared as safe zones. The attacks on Thursday have heightened fears among more than 2 million Palestinians trapped in the territory that nowhere was safe. More than 1 million Palestinians, roughly half of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes in Gaza City and other places in the northern part of the territory.