Jacksonville natives experience Israel at war

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Americans Alan Margolies and Colleen Rodriguez traveled to Israel on July 13th, they knew they were entering a war zone.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't reconsider, up until the very moment that I stepped on the plane," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is the Executive Director of Jewish Family and Community Services of Jacksonville. She is also a mother of two who had planned her trip to Israel more than a year ago, as part of a national campaign worker's trip in order to see where US dollars are used in Israel.

For Rodriguez, it was her first time in Israel, and she decided to take advantage of her trip. She tells First Coast News, she felt prepared as soon as she arrived overseas. When she heard sirens, she was trained to run into a bomb shelter in 90 seconds.

"The majority of times you would run to shelter in the stairwell of the hotel and then you hear the sirens go off, you wait, sometimes you hear a little explosion and then you wait for about ten minutes and then you come out and life goes on as usual," said Rodriguez.

"My thought was this is not okay. This is not a way for people to live or for children to live," said Rodriguez. "As a mother, I couldn't imagine being away from my children when the siren goes off."She says it happened about seven times, despite Israel's Iron Dome.

But even so, Rodriguez says she enjoyed her trip and she felt more saddened for the people there than frightened for herself. Her colleague, Alan Margolies and Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville, agrees.

"It was an inconvenience, but we didn't feel any sense of endangerment," said Margolies. "Where we were in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the northern part of Israel, the Israeli's are trying to keep life as normal as possible there."

Rodriguez says, she looks forward to going back.

"The people were so gracious. They were happy we were there, especially during this hard time," said Rodriguez.


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