WilCo judge Bill Gravell visits Israel, calls for release of hostages

Many of the images Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell took during his seven days in Israel seem like a typical economic development trip to make new business contacts. 

On Wednesday, from his office in Georgetown, Gravell said he brought back home a new perspective on the crisis in that part of the world.

"I was completely blindsided," said Gravell.

Gravell's first trip to Israel came as defense forces pushed into Rafah to root out Hamas fighters. He says the sounds of gun battles and explosions from rockets fired from Gaza were certainly concerning. But the women in a video on his cell phone made a lasting impact.  

He shows FOX 7 Austin video of the aunt of Agam Berger, a hostage, and they met while Gravell was touring the West Bank.

"I don't know what's happening with her. You need to bring her home now," said Berger’s aunt.

Agam Berger is among the female IDF soldiers captured by Hamas fighters during the October 7 attack.

"I heard her story, and no one really knew how to respond. And because it was overwhelming, and it was emotional," said Gravell.

Gravell brought back memorial dog tags to remember hostages like Berger.

"What I see is a kid who went to serve her nation, being classically trained as a violinist. That's caught in the crosshairs of an international war. Who is defending her nation and in a really brave and heroic way. What I see are Williamson County kiddos," said Gravell.

In Tel Aviv, while walking through an area known as hostage square, Gravell recorded his own message.

"Guys, I want to remind you as well, we forget that there are six U.S. hostages that are held and then two dead Americans that are still being held hostage. Listen, we've got to get our hostages out. Not just for Israel, but for America, too," said Gravell.

During a tour of the October 7 concert site massacre, Gravell walked by more images of those killed and kidnapped. It hit close to home.


"I wasn't prepared because it looked to me like going to Georgetown. And it looked to me like going to the Two Step’N music festival. The terrain looked similar to trees, looks similar to the grass, looks similar. And the difference was that there were hundreds of Israelis and foreign nationals that were murdered that day. I wasn't prepared for that," said Gravell.

The continued protests and clashes over the war concern Gravell. Like the attack at the Israeli embassy in Mexico City on Tuesday night. He knows both sides are dug in and offered this.

"What I would say to our local residents is, whichever side you're on, be more cautious in what you say, whichever side you're on, it's wiser to listen than it is to speak whichever side you're on. Understand that there are families that are suffering, that have children that are being held captive, or children that have been killed. Be more respectful of all the sides that are involved here," said Gravell.

Judge Gravell was critical of how the Biden administration has responded so far to the war. Especially the temporary pier for supplies that was built which recently broke apart.