BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — For the Tri-Cities’ Jewish congregation, B’nai Sholom, connections to those facing conflict in Israel abound.
“Many of us do have close ties,” Rabbi Richard Bessman told News Channel 11. “I have cousins, several cousins there and many friends, so I’m sure I’m not unique in that.”
It’s not just the local Jewish community and members of a Kingsport church, which has a tour group in the country, who are paying especially close attention to the unfolding conflict.
Tennessee State Representative Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough) had plans to spend ten days in Israel with colleagues from her state capitol Bible study, visiting locations they’d studied.
“We should have been arriving about right now in Tel Aviv,” Alexander to News Channel 11 Monday morning.
When news broke of Hamas attacks and an Israeli declaration of war, Alexander said a planned visit to the Knesset was swapped for a Sunday Zoom call with an Israeli military official.
“Just to reassure her and the Israeli defense forces that we were supporting them, and we had their backs,” Alexander said.
Just outside Blountville on State Route 126, members of the B’nai Sholom congregation pray, watch the news and keep in touch with friends and family in Israel.
“It’s just, it’s a state of shock and worry that it will get worse,” Bessman said.
Kingsport’s Sunnyside Baptist Church is still awaiting the safe return of nearly 50 members who were touring the country when the attacks began.
Sunnyside Associate Pastor David Luster confirmed Monday the group is still planning to return to the United States on Tuesday.
“My heart goes out to all the people who have loved ones that are Americans that are over there trying to get out,” Alexander said. “We’re praying hard for them. “
Bessman said he’s leaning on faith in the face of an attack, meditating on the national hymn of Israel, Hatikva.
“So long as within the inmost heart a Jewish spirit sings,” Bessman read. “So long as the eye looks eastward gazing toward Zion. Our hope is not lost. “