PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Chesapeake couple is stuck in Israel amid the country’s war with Hamas and need help getting home.
They came to the country with about a dozen people from Relate Church in Suffolk for a mission trip with the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem, and say the war started as soon as they touched down.
“We landed around 10:30 on Saturday. As soon as we landed, checked our phones and that’s about the same time they declared war,” said Rita Larson on Tuesday alongside her husband Brian.
“So Sunday, we started trying to rebook flights, looking at our options to maybe get out of here and there. At that point, no flights available. We’ve been rebooked several times. And every time the flights keep getting canceled and there’s just been multiple multiple attempts by our team and we have a party of 12 here to try and get out of Israel and we can’t so some of the chaos all the stores are basically shut down.”
They’ve hear sirens and rockets, and have had to shelter in place, but say they’re keeping their faith strong.
“We hear shots, noises, missiles, and I bet I didn’t sleep an hour,” Rita said. “I think last night was the kicker when I spoke to my mom, she just broke down in tears and was like ‘you need to get out of there. You need to come home.’ and I had to tell her ‘mom I can’t come home.'”
Ten of 12 members of Relate Church in Israel on mission work are set to begin the journey back to America Friday. After 10 On Your Side, aired the Larson’s story a viewer who works for American Kinetics contacted WAVY saying they can help the couple get home.
American Kinetics website shows they have trained staff that help people who are in high risk areas.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Warner is also trying to bring Virginian’s home.
“My office has been contacted already by around 5 to 10 Virginians who are currently in Israel, and we have helped some leave country through Ahman Jordan,” said Warner.
It is not known if those include any of the 12 Americans from Relate Church in Suffolk now stuck in Israel.
Two of them interviewed by 10 on Your Side’s Kamaria Braye.
The Larsons from Chesapeake,
“We know God has us in the palm of his hands,” said Rita Larson. “We want to get out of here before things get any worse.”
Said Warner: “I would urge anyone who has Virginia families in Israel to make sure the State Department knows they are there, so we can get contact on the ground.”
What is the Larsons’ message to Warner and other congressional leaders?
“We are feeling the hopeless side, so we want to get out of here before things get worse,” Rita Larson said. “We’ve got families, grandkids, parents, we want to get home, so they aren’t worrying about us too.”
The situation is so unstable that numbers are hard to come by.
10 On Your Side asked Warner about hostages.
“We do not have exact numbers of Americans held hostage,” Warner said. “At this point, I do not think Israel knows how many Israelis are held hostage. They are still going through these towns.”
Americans have been killed in the fighting, so this is nerve wracking to family members.
“We sent them pictures that we are OK and reassuring them of that,” Rita Larson said. “I think last night, for me, was the kicker. I spoke to my mom, and she broke down in tears.”