While in Israel on solidarity visit, New York governor mourns father’s sudden passing

Kathy Hochul puts note with prayers for country and her dad into Western Wall

New York Governor Kathy Hochul visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 19, 2023. (Shlomi Amsalem/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)
New York Governor Kathy Hochul visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday, October 19, 2023. (Shlomi Amsalem/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

The New York governor’s father died overnight Wednesday-Thursday while she was visiting wartime Israel on a solidarity trip, with the governor slipping a note grieving her loss into Jerusalem’s Western Wall holy site on Thursday.

Democratic Governor 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 declared war on Hamas and carried out heavy airstrikes in Gaza after a devastating cross-border massacre by Hamas terrorists in southern Israel on October 7.

More than 1,400 people in Israel were killed and roughly 200 others were abducted and taken into Gaza by Hamas, where they remain.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul arrives in Israel, Wednesday, October 18, 2023, to begin a trip intended to show support for the country during its war with Hamas. (Shlomi Amsalem/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul via AP)

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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador to the US Michael Herzog, and 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, formerly 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.

US President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, flew to Israel for a seven-and-a-half-hour visit Wednesday that offered support for the Israeli people and urged the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw at least 1,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

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. Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas from which Hamas operates while striving to minimize civilian casualties.

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