“I really wanted to go to Israel to get good food, good music,” said Hassan Siddiki, of Cleveland.
It started out as a personal vacation to Tel Aviv.
“It was the day before a religious holiday. Everyone was out and about, the restaurants and bars were packed,” said Siddiki.
However, the tenor of the trip quickly changed early Saturday morning.
“We heard the sirens in the hotel room, I had never heard a siren in that context before,” said Siddiki.
Hassan and the other hotel guests had seconds to take shelter in a hotel bunker across the street.
“You wouldn’t even know it was there. It’s underground, the walls are reinforced. It felt safe,” said Siddiki.
They sheltered in place underground while Hamas carried out its attack on Israel.
“You can certainly hear it. You can hear the missiles coming. It almost sounds like fireworks going off. You can definitely hear them explode,” said Siddiki.
Hassan never imagined he’d get to experience how Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system works in real life.
“Before the missiles can enter a certain zone, they are neutralized. So you can hear them far away, but nothing is visible in the sky,” said Siddiki.
Siddiki said even in the midst of chaos, the hotel staff took care of the guests and even made them dinner.
Once the sirens stopped Sunday, Hassan immediately packed up and headed for the airport.
“The locals told me absolutely no, the airport is only being used by the military and I kept seeing every flight was canceled,” said Siddiki
Eventually, he was able to hop onto a flight to Amsterdam where he was able to book a flight home to Cleveland.
“It certainly feels good to be home. However, a part of me still feels so bad for the people who are there and the human suffering that is going on,” said Siddiki.