84 North Dakotans planning to leave Israel as missile attacks exchanged between IDF and Hamas

Courtesy: Phil Ackerman
Courtesy: Phil Ackerman

(Bethelhem, Israel) -- A group of 84 North Dakotans are assessing their options as missile attacks are traded between the Israel Defense Force and Hamas within Palestine.

The group of North Dakotans flew to Israel on October 2nd to tour holy sites in the region, and were planning to return to Fargo on October 12th. However, a massive attack from Hamas forces within the Gaza strip has led to the deaths of approximately 1,200 people according to CBS News. The group learned of the attacks once a checkpoint near Bethlehem and Jerusalem was closing.

"We are doing fine, but there is a level of anxiety underneath all of this. We know we are safe," said Father Ackerman, a pastor with West Fargo Holy Cross Catholic Church on AM 1100 The Flag, "We all want to [leave early], but it looks like that is not possible because there are no flights available to us."

Father Ackerman says the group has registered and filled out crisis forms with the U.S. Embassy, which allows the embassy to know where the group is located. Ackerman then read off instructions from the embassy, saying the U.S. is encouraging the residents to stay where they are in an area near Bethelhem. 

WDAY Radio also reached out to a family member, who says things are not going well within the group.

"They are all trying to disperse now. It's not a question of them trying to stay together now, they are all panicking trying to get out,"said Alexis Bachmeier, who's mother and stepfather are currently in Jerusalem or Bethlehem, "They have called the embassy multiple times. The State Department has not contacted any of them."

Other members of the group include people from Fargo and Grand Forks. Also in attendance is Father Gerard Braun of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fargo and Father Augie Gotham of St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Hawley and St. Elizabeth's in Dilworth.

WDAY Radio is continuing to follow this developing story. You can read our original reporting by clicking here

Original Air Date: 
Monday, October 9, 2023