If you asked 100 random Knoxvillians to name the nicest guy in town, my money’d be on Yassin Falafel, who is trying desperately to get a message through to his Congressional representative, Tim Burchett.
Falafel’s not his real last name, but Yassin Terou, who escaped persecution in his native Syria in 2011 during its catastrophic civil war, doesn’t mind being known as the owner of Yassin’s Falafel House, which has grown into a three-store chain since Reader’s Digest named it The Nicest Place in America in 2018. His infectious energy, optimism and generosity had already made him a local celebrity even before the publicity brought by the national award. Read Yassin’s story here and here
His personal credo, “All sizes, all colors, all ages, all sexes, all cultures, all religions, all types, all beliefs, all people, safe here at Yassin’s Falafel House,” is prominently displayed behind his counter, and he means it.
He’s become a fixture at area disasters, handing out food and hope to friends and strangers; and he’s recently expanded his efforts to help disaster victims across the globe.
But he’s not flashing his usual ear-to-ear smile as much as he used to before the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel and its aftermath. He was pained by the violence against Israelis by the terrorist Hamas, and he is pained by the violence the Israelis are inflicting on the people of Gaza, who were warned to evacuate the territory they’d been allotted, but have been refused entry into Egypt and have nowhere to go.
Water, fuel, food and medical supplies have been cut off, and what little video we’ve seen shows catastrophic conditions – people are starving and doctors are doing surgery with no anesthesia on hospital floors.
Burchett, who labels himself an evangelical follower of Christ, and therefore bound to protect Israel, appears to be indifferent by the plight of the Palestinians. When he comments about the situation there, it’s usually to predict that the Israelis will soon send Hamas and its sympathizers “to meet their maker.” It is unclear who he includes in the group set for extermination. Burchett’s interview here.
Yassin, a devout Muslim who never met a stranger, is having trouble believing that Burchett means to sound so harsh. So, he has launched a personal campaign to get through to his congressman, whom he attempted to engage on social media (lightly edited for clarity):
“Mr. Congressman Tim Burchett today you shared tweet/video of people protesting in DC saying this people are pro Hamas. Please let me clear a point asking to stop the killing of the civilians and kids in Gaza doesn’t mean supporting Hamas. Can you please share anything can show they are supporting Hamas? I personally condemn any act that will result losing of lives regardless of a religion or a race and I think we all should the same.
“Asking ALL my friends to share the post so Mr. Burchett can hear us and provide material that can show this people supporting Hamas.”
And, “Giving anther chance to our TN congressman @Congressman Tim Burchett because I definitely don’t like people saying he was providing wrong and dangerous information calling people asking to stop the killing kids and civilians in the holy land pro Hamas. Please, if you have a good relation with Mr. Burchett, ask him to answer us with any videos/pictures or records showing the people he showed in his tweet is pro Hamas.”
So far, Yassin’s public attempts to engage Burchett have been ignored, although it is fair to say that Burchett has been attending to other activities – like blowing up the House of Representatives. But I do not look for Yassin to give up. It’s not like he’s a quitter.
So, if you happen to run into a gentleman farmer from Corryton in a Carhartt jacket, ask him to give Yassin a holler.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.