BY REBECCA KHEEL Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela Elisheva and Irvin Pike were at a shop in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City when they heard a siren go off.
Pike ignored the howling, concentrating instead on a 2,000-year-old piece of glass on display.
Unsure of what to do, Elisheva looked out the window to see what native Israelis were doing. All she saw was a bunch of confused tourists. So, she asked the shop owner what was going on.
"Oh, a bunch of crazy people are shooting at each other," she said the shop owner told her.
The sirens were warning people in Jerusalem that a bomb was heading their way. The rocket was coming from Gaza. It ended up missing Jerusalem and hitting an area just outside the city.
Elisheva, 55, and Pike, 58, a couple from Bakersfield, arrived in Israel on Nov. 10. A few days later Gaza and Israel were bombarding each other with rockets during the most recent flare-up of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.
Elisheva, a Bakersfield city planner, teaches eighth-graders the history of modern Israel at religious school. She and Pike, a local plummer, decided to take the trip to Israel so that she could be better equipped to teach and learn more about Israel from the source.
"If you wait for a safe time, you're never going to," Elisheva said. "It was just a time in my life I felt good about going."
It was Elisheva's first time in Israel, but Pike's second. He had spent four months there in 1973 working a kibbutz, an Israeli collective community. He was there shortly after the Yom Kippur War, an Israeli-Arab conflict in October 1973.
"I saw more action then in the Golan Heights when they were still bombing there," he said of his experience the first time versus this most recent trip.
Pike kept a calm attitude about being in a country while it was being bombed.
"I was more concerned with getting in an auto accident than being shot by a bomb," he said.
The couple did have to change some of their plans to keep safe, though. After a bus was bombed in Tel Aviv, they avoided public transportation. That did not affect them that much, they said, because they had already rented a car.
They also had to cut out a stop. They were going to go from the Dead Sea to the Negev Desert to Jerusalem. But driving from the desert to Jerusalem would have put them right in the conflict zone. So they skipped the stop in the desert and went straight to Jerusalem.
The only close call they had was hearing the sirens go off while there were in Jerusalem, they said. Before they left their hotel that day, they asked the concierge what to do if the sirens went off.
"When we asked the question, they rolled their eyes, like 'Oh, you tourists,'" Elisheva said.
"For them, it's a way of life. These are people that live with people terrorizing them," she added.
Elisheva and Pike could not avoid Tel Aviv, where most of Gaza's rockets were aimed. That's where the airport they used is located. The ceasefire was agreed to the day before they needed to go to Tel Aviv.
But when a thunderstorm started raging the night they spent in Tel Aviv, Elisheva said she was worried the sounds she was hearing were not the weather, but a break in the ceasefire.
"I'm not a militaristic person," Elisheva said, "but I was so thankful the Israel Defense Forces was defending Israel when I was there."