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Gov. Kathy Hochul learns of father's sudden death during emotional trip to Israel

Gov. Kathy Hochul tours Gaza border where dozens were killed
Gov. Kathy Hochul tours Gaza border where dozens were killed 03:27

JERUSALEM — Gov. Kathy Hochul is due to return to New York on Friday after an emotional trip to Israel, where she met with Israeli leaders, toured a kibbutz at the Gaza Border and suffered the loss of her father, who died while she was en route. 

Hochul had to wear a bulletproof vest to see the aftermath of the attack on Kfar Aza, a kibbutz just one mile from the Gaza border where 70 people died.

She said the images were indelible and should stand as a stark reminder to those protesting that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself. 

"The slaughter of innocents, the smells, the sights were difficult to process. There was blood all over the walls, the floors, the mattresses, safe rooms that became a house of horrors. I saw where a hostage had been held until he was shot in the head," said Hochul. 

Hochul Israel
New York Governor Kathy Hochul visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2023. Hochul's father died overnight while she was touring wartime Israel, with the teary-eyed governor slipping a note grieving the loss into Jerusalem's Western Wall holy site. (Shlomi Amsalem/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul via AP) Shlomi Amsalem / AP

Hochul said the trip reaffirmed her commitment to supporting Israel's right to exist. 

"There have been conflicts in the past. But always before it's been military against military, government against government. And this is more akin to the Holocaust, the slaughter of innocent people. These are not people who got in harms way during a military conflict between armies. These are people that were targeted. There was an intentionality which is so cruel and depraved," Hochul told CBS New York's Marcia Kramer over Zoom. 

Hochul met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. They talked about the need to rescue hostages and for humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. 

While she represents the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, Hochul was well aware she also represents those who have staged protests against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. 

"They have a right to peacefully protest. But there can be no denial of what happened or any kind of equivalency with this particular attack because it was so heinous," said Hochul. 

On the flight to Israel, Hochul learned her father had died. When she went to the Western Wall, she penned a note praying for peace in the region and her dad. 

Hochul, who is Catholic, also made an unscheduled stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Against the advice of her security detail, she ducked into a dark shrine and knelt and prayed. 

Hochul said the last time she talked to her dad was, ironically, when she was at the airport leaving for the holy land. 

"Talked to him in his rough Irish way when he said, 'I'm proud of you, Dollie, but keep your goddam head down," Hochul said. 

Dollie was her dad's nickname for her.

Hochul credited her father with setting her on the path to politics by telling her not to choose one college because "That's where you go to become the wife of a congressman" and to go to Syracuse because "That's where you go to become a congressman." 

After returning from Israel, Hochul will travel to Florida to visit with her family. 

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