Lynchburg Mayor Studying In Israel Amidst Violence
Lynchburg, VA - As the madness in the Middle East plays out, the Mayor of Lynchburg, Mike Gillette, is in the middle of it all. Gillette is in Jerusalem and he plans on being there for another couple of weeks.Gillette though like thousands of Israelis said he feels safe. He's in Jerusalem, a city that has luckily avoided much of the conflict. But that doesn't make things there any less tense.In Israel, a death toll on the rise; 29 Israelis and more than 600 Palestinians. The situation is growing more tense every day."We take very seriously the security and safety of American citizens" said Marie Harf, Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in a press briefing Tuesday.The FAA prohibited American flights to and from the Tel Aviv airport after a rocket landed a mile away on Tuesday morning.In the middle of it all is Lynchburg's Mayor, Mike Gillette."Today a rocket fell in Mod'in which is a suburb of Jerusalem as you're heading back out towards the airport towards Tel Aviv" said Gillette.For two weeks Gillette will be studying Hebrew, an intensive course, with an even more intense backdrop. The conflict is in its third week with almost no signs of a cease-fire."Hamas has a fundamental choice to make and it is a choice that will have a profound impact for the people of Gaza" said Secretary of State, John Kerry."To some degree, I feel happy about the fact that I can be here and basically just show a sign of solidarity that business should go on and we're not going to be scared away" said Gillette.Though it was certainly not the peaceful visit Gillette had hoped for."There's a bomb shelter in my apartment and I have the key to that so if it happens when I'm in the apartment, I know exactly where to go. If I'm out on the street, you sort of have to find a stone wall to hunker down next to" he said.Gillette has an additional week and a half of classes. He had originally planned to travel to Tel Aviv at the completion of the course, but that plan will likely have to change.No word yet on if his return flight to the U.S. will be impacted as U.S. airlines are now being prohibited by the FAA from flying to or from the Tel Aviv airport.