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Wis. women share stories from Israel amidst violence

Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:13:07 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 23 2014 07:18:17 AM CDT

Alexandra Zimmern chose to spend her summer studying Jewish texts in Jerusalem. Sirens have sounded three times since she arrived. When she hears that noise, she has 90 seconds to take cover.

MADISON, Wis. -

Alexandra Zimmern chose to spend her summer studying Jewish texts in Jerusalem. Sirens have sounded three times since she arrived. When she hears that noise, she has 90 seconds to take cover.

“You can actually feel, really you'll hear the boom, you'll hear the walls shake,” Zimmern said. “Yeah, as an American, as any person, it's pretty terrifying.”

The senior majoring in political science and international studies at the University of Wisconsin said though she’s an hour and a half from where most of the violence is happening, an app on her phone notifies her every time a missile is launched across the Gaza border.

“My phone is going off every single 20 minutes, 30 minutes, every hour with different alerts of bombings, of missiles, rockets being launched in Israel,” Zimmern said. “And I think that's such a scary reality just not knowing what's going on.”

Zimmern, a Green Bay native, said her parents offered to fly her out of Israel early. She insisted on finishing her stay. She’s supposed to fly out next month, but airline officials have indefinitely canceled flights in and out of the country.

“In many ways Israelis have become used to it, but they're very, very resilient. Even when they're anxious, even when there is so much sorrow, they're resilient because they know in the end we will survive and we will make it through this,” Zimmern said.

Deborah Martin, cantor at Beth El Temple in Madison, returned to the States Monday after touring Israel and visiting with sister congregations.

“If I had waited a day, I probably wouldn't be here right now,” Martin said.

Martin said every home had a concrete and steel safe room in it where Israelis go when the warning sirens go off.

“Most of what I did there was done in a bomb shelter because of what's going on,” Martin said.

Martin had visited Israel twice before, and while there was always a military presence, she said it couldn’t compare to the violence on this trip.

“You're constantly wondering, 'Well should I go somewhere or not?'” Martin said. “You're constantly in fear that you'll be out in the street when something happens.”

Martin said the temple had another group trip planned for August. Those travel plans have been canceled in light of the violence.

Martin said as tour groups were detouring from their initial routes, she ventured to potentially dangerous areas as planned.

“They are so unfortunately used to this that it's just sort of part of their lives. They know that they need to be careful,” Martin said. “They know they need to be diligent to hear the sirens. They need to be diligent to go into those safe rooms or wherever.”

Still in Israel, Zimmern said even if you aren’t in a missile’s path, you know someone in the army who may be in danger at any moment.

“Being a 21-year-old college student in Madison, Wisconsin, it is very hard to relate to the fact that the people that are sacrificing their lives, their time, and are really putting themselves in these dangerous situations, going into Gaza, fighting against terrorism are either my age or younger than me," Zimmern said.

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