Why the war in Israel hits painfully close to home for ex-Texas Ranger Ian Kinsler

While the Texas Rangers play the most “meaningful” games of their lives in the World Series, on the other side of the world people simply hope to stay alive.

For former Rangers second baseman and current team advisor Ian Kinsler, the events in Israel are not some conflict in a far away place seen only on a screen. The people there who are scared and suffering are not strangers.

His father is Jewish, and Kinsler is a citizen of the country having played for the Israeli national baseball team during the 2021 Summer Olympics. He served as the team’s manager during the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“The people I know who live there are all safe; they were able to get to safety when this (war) started,” Kinsler said in an interview during the American League Championship Series with the Star-Telegram.

“The people they know, some of them have lost their lives. It’s been a tough week. Certainly they are all in my thoughts and prayers, and I just hope the situation is under control and resolved soon.”

For Kinsler, the history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine may be complicated, but what happened on Oct. 7 is not.

On the same day the Rangers began their AL Division Series against Baltimore, Oct. 7, the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas launched a sophisticated attack against Israel. Thousands have died, including children.

“Israel will protect themselves to the best of their ability and try their best to try not to allow (an attack) again,” he said. “It’s very similar to 9/11 here with (al-Qaeda); in my opinion, (ISIS and al-Qaeda) are very similar.

“The history of (Israel and Palestine) is complicated, but this actual war itself is not. What transpired allowed Israel to place a heavy hand and help their military attack is not very complicated at all. There are a lot of lives lost in cold blood, and I don’t think anybody questioned (the United States) attacking (ISIS and al-Qaeda) after two planes hit those two towers. You protect yourself.”

Before Game 3 of the ALCS against Houston, Kinsler wore his jersey from the Israeli national team to threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Kinsler walked in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo behind the Israeli flag. He was a member of Israel’s first national Olympic team since 1976.

Kinsler was in Israel with his wife when he was working with kids to teach baseball in early 2020.

Part of Kinsler’s process of becoming an Israeli citizen is learning the history of the nation, which was created in 1948. This includes a history lesson of the many conflicts and wars that have occurred there since that time.

“They give you that history and obviously the world-view of that area and who those people are. It’s sad. It’s sad that we are in a place that these things happen,” he said. “Antisemitism should not be happening and it still is, and it’s tough to deal with it.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, since Oct. 7 there has been a 388 percent increase in reported incidents of antisemitism; this includes, “harassment, vandalism and assault.”

Kinsler was in Tel Aviv early in 2020 when he and his wife were on one of the last planes to leave the country before the nation enforced strict COVID protocols. They were essentially told to evacuate.

He later returned to Israel with his family, and toured many of the same locations that are now images of third-word rubble, examples in the fog of war. This includes Gaza.

“This all hits a lot differently, I think, because I have been to the places that were attacked,” he said. “I’ve been to Kibbutz, which is right across the street from where people were brutally slain and murdered. I was there.

“I looked at the Gaza Strip, and was in that region. There is a bomb shelter every 15 feet, so there is heightened awareness (of a potential attack). We were inside a community that was surrounded by barbed wire and security guards. You can see shrapnel and metal still lying around. It’s an on going part of their history, and it’s tough.

“I cannot imagine something like that happening here.”

Most Americans can’t.

For every single player from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, this World Series will be the biggest games of their lives.

What’s going on on the other side of the world shows that these games are just that.