Middle East crisis hits home for east Tennessee family - WSMV Channel 4

Middle East crisis hits home for east Tennessee family

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The FAA has lifted its ban on U.S. Flights to Israel, but the crisis in the Middle East is hitting home for one east Tennessee family.

Since U.S. and European carriers decided to halt flights to Israel, a Chattanooga man has been stuck abroad.

Gina Utterback and her husband Michael have dedicated their lives to helping those who live in Israel.

“We are there to help them and stand with them even in the good times and the bad,” Gina said.

The couple have a home in Jerusalem and also live in the Chattanooga area.

Michael is in Israel right now and was set to fly back Wednesday for a conference in Florida this weekend. Instead, he’s grounded overseas after U.S. and European airlines extended their halt on flights to and from the country.

“We’ve been there through, maybe not quite as difficult as this one, but we have been there through difficult times,” Gina added.

She questions the safety at the airport after a rocket landed nearby in Tel Aviv earlier this week, but is worried about what the ban will do to Israel’s economy.

“That’s scary, that’s not a normal situation. But I do know that the nation of Israel depends heavily on tourism, people coming back and forth and I know that this is really crippling that nation,” she said.

Shannon Greer is married to Gina’s daughter. The couple also lived in Jerusalem for four years. Greer believes the ban will be a direct hit for the already struggling nation.

“That’s like a main line artery for business and the economy in Israel. It effects tourism. I’ve taken lots of tours over there and know how much this cripples that aspect of life there,” Greer said.

The family believes Michael is safe in Jerusalem, but hope the conflict will be resolved soon.

“I think to a degree, yes that’s important, that we take the high road, but there also comes a time when enough is enough,” Greer added.

It's not clear if Michael has been able to board a flight since the ban was lifted.

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