EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was modified to clarify the group’s situation in terms of leaving Israel.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It’s been a difficult couple of days for Pastor Richard Sfameni and his wife.
Sfameni tells 12 News he and his wife are two of nine Rhode Islanders who were in Israel during Hamas’ unprecedented and unexpected attack.
“It really brings the Bible alive, because you see the Bible in living color, if you will,” Sfameni said of the escalating conflict.
Hamas gunmen stormed from the blockaded Gaza Strip and into nearby Israeli towns on Saturday, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.
Israel has since declared war on Hamas and promised to punish the Gaza Strip for the deadly assault by increasing airstrikes, as well as cutting off their access to supplies.
Sfameni said he and the others, who are all parishioners of Providence’s Victory Church, have been “spending a lot of time praying, talking to God and reading the scripture.”
Right now, Sfameni and the parishioners have sought refuge in Galilee, which is located in northern Israel. Though they’re safe, signs of what’s unfolding in southern Israel are already making themselves known.
“The only sounds we hear are fighter jets flying above us at a high level of readiness, just in case something happens,” Sfameni said.
Sfameni tells 12 News their flight is scheduled to leave on Wednesday, but with the developing situation, they understand things may not go as planned.
“Our hearts are really breaking for this beautiful land and the people who are suffering,” his wife Lisa Sfameni said. “So, as much as we want to get home, our hearts are really sober here thinking about what we are leaving behind and what the people who live here are going through.”
The conflict has so far killed more than 1,600 and injured thousands of others. Hundreds remain missing, and Hamas had already threatened to execute civilian hostages should Israel continue to retaliate.
Back home, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island is standing in solidarity with Israel. In addition to a prayer vigil scheduled for Monday night at the Jewish Community Center, fundraising efforts are underway to help those who have been directly impacted.