Minnetonka couple under rocket fire during Israel vacation - KMSP-TV

Minnetonka couple praying for peace amid 'intense' vacation in Israel

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As a volley of missiles continues between Israel and the Gaza strip, the increase in the civilian death toll is increasing fears of a ground invasion. Meanwhile, the Jewish community in Minnesota is praying for peace.

The United Nations has called the violence "unacceptable," and is demanding that both sides put down their weapons. In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin, President Barack Obama offered to lend his help in negotiating a ceasefire, and Obama is calling on both sides to restore calm.

It's been a few years since tensions in the region have escalated to this point, but those who live and visit Israel say they are no strangers to air raid sirens. Even so, making a mission trip to the holy city of Jerusalem is a powerful experience Jews from across the world seek -- including those living in Minnesota.

"You walk in the shoes of our ancestors," Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, of Temple Israel, told Fox 9 News. "They would come to this place, and here we are in the 21st century, standing on the very same cobblestones. It's amazing."

Many Minnesotans are currently planning trips to Israel or fretting for the well being of those who are already visiting. In fact, the kidnapping and murder of 3 teens unfolded just as Zimmerman set out to lead a mission trip with members of her congregation. That incident sparked the aerial assaults that have already claimed 85 lives, mostly Palestinians.

"Today was probably the worst day of shellings," Kim and Joel Gedan, both of whom have been vacationing in Israel since June, told Fox 9 News by phone. "It was almost constant rocket fire into Israel. Many times an hour, all day long."

The Minnetonka natives have been using a smart phone app that alerts them to missile threats within a fraction of a second.

"Our phones will go off and say where the actual missile is going to be coming, and, if it's in your area, what you need to do," they explained.

Most of the shelling takes place about 30 miles south, in Tel Aviv. Even so, the violence makes for a constant state of uneasiness.

"It's a very intense situation," the Gedans assessed. "I think Israelis are very strong, and we're trying to live our daily lives and hoping and praying for peace."

While Zimmerman is now safely back in Minnesota, she says her daughter is still working as an intern at a radio station in east Jerusalem. In fact, she's so close to the center of the conflict that she had to walk to work because the trains will no longer travel through that part of town.

"She hasn't experienced that in Linden Hills, Minnesota," Zimmerman said. "Minneapolis just has never been a place where she has had that fear."

Zimmerman's daughter was part of the group that made a condolence call to the family of one Palestinian teen who was kidnapped and murdered. She says that has given her a unique perspective on both sides of the conflict.

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