A couple from Washington state was having breakfast in their Jerusalem hotel when the air raid sirens started blaring. It was October 7, the morning of the Hamas attack of Israel. 

Patrick and Sharon Ellis arrived in Ashdod, Israel, aboard a cruise ship and disembarked before making their way to their hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem by early afternoon. They planned to stay for five days and started walking around the neighborhood. “We ate our way through the market. It was amazing. The food was phenomenal. The bread, the lamb kebabs and the fresh juices were so good. It was a great day,” he said. 


A middle-aged white couple wearing sunglasses and hats poses for a photo beneath arches in an Israeli city.


Things changed dramatically Saturday morning. “We planned a walking tour with a group following breakfast. At 6:30 in the morning, the air raid sirens went off. I thought it was a drill,” he said. 

Ellis observed that no one seemed overly concerned, at first. “I noticed the waiters all walked outside and then came back in, locked the doors and closed the windows,” Ellis said. The warning alarms sounded a few more times. Everyone was puzzled. “I don’t think anybody knew at that point that we were under missile attack,” he said. 

The Ellises decided to proceed with the walking tour. The streets were abandoned. The couple knew it was the Sabbath but remained concerned that the streets were so empty. “There was nobody out. Not a soul. This was strange and didn’t look good,” he added. 


Abandoned market in Jerusalem.


As the twosome approached the Jaffa Gate, the air raid sirens blared again followed by an earth-shattering boom. The couple looked up and saw rocket vapor trails crossing the sky with another set of exhaust trails on a collision course. “The interceptor rockets started blowing up the incoming missiles. It must have been the Iron Dome defense system in action,” Ellis said.

Worried about falling debris, shrapnel and further attacks, Patrick changed plans. “I told Sharon we’ve got to get out of here.”

They returned to the hotel and were led to a shelter inside and tried to find information on the news channels. The sirens continued and then they heard gunfire. That’s when they decided to leave. 

“We needed to get back to Tel Aviv and be near the airport. I was worried an escalation of attacks could close the highways. I wanted to be near the airport,” he said. It took four hours for the Ellises to get a cab that would take them to a hotel in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb seven miles from the airport.  


[Related Reading: Holidays in the Holy City: Health and Safety Risks for Travelers in Jerusalem]


Upon arrival at the hotel, the couple was given directions to the bomb shelter if the sirens sounded. “Thirty minutes later the sirens sounded, and we started to go to the bomb shelter. Two rockets struck close to the hotel and shook the building. I could feel the concussion through the cement wall of the stairwell,” he said. 

Between rocket attacks the couple contacted Global Rescue security operations experts. “I knew those guys would know what to do. I needed to find out what was going on and what we should do,” he said. 

A retired firefighter and police officer, Ellis and his wife, Sharon, saved money so they could travel together. “We’ve been married for 53 years and we like going places. We worked, added overtime, when possible, to save our money and blow it on a big trip,” he said. 

Their first big trip was to Manila. They loved it. Then they traveled to Nepal and trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp. That’s where the couple realized they needed better preparation, and better protection. 

“My wife got altitude sickness pretty badly. We stopped at about 15,000 feet of elevation; 2,598 feet short of Base Camp (17,598 feet/5,364 meters). I didn’t have any rescue protection at that time. That’s when I started looking at medical evacuation services,” he said. 

The Ellises have been Global Rescue members for several years. Most of those years they purchased a Travel Membership with services for field rescue, medical evacuation, advisory and destination reports. But this year they had a lot of international travel planned and added the Security Package for physical extraction in case of danger associated with civil unrest, natural disasters, government evacuation orders and other security emergencies. 

“On my first call from the hotel bomb shelter, I talked to someone who took my information. She said a security operations expert would call me right back. It was less than a minute, and I got a call back from a Global Rescue security operations supervisor who was a military special forces veteran,” he said. 

The Global Rescue security team provided extensive advisory and logistical support. They knew the Ellises needed to leave the country. They developed a rapid action plan with redundant evacuation options and maintained constant contact providing the Ellises with the latest information, continuous oversight and guidance.  


Israel's Iron Dome intercepts Hamas rockets.
Contrails and explosions from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting Hamas-fired rockets.


The Ellises remained alert but were calmed knowing they had expert help. “I was amazed at the quick, efficient, no-words-wasted response from Global Rescue’s security operations supervisor. I realized after speaking to him that the situation was far more serious than we thought,” he said. 

While Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport remained open following the missile attack, most airlines immediately suspended flights making airborne departures from Israel unreliable. Global Rescue security experts developed evacuation plans based on multiple contingencies. They had to be decisive in their planning without wasting time. Things were changing by the minute and communications could be lost at any moment, especially during escalating war-like violence. Fortunately, Global Rescue was able to maintain regular communications throughout the ordeal. 


[Related Reading: Mission Briefs: Global Rescue in Action – October 2023]


“Those updates from Global Rescue and their thorough planning details gave Sharon and me a great deal of comfort knowing holistic plans were in place,” Ellis said.  

The Global Rescue security operations team arranged seats for the Ellises on an outbound El Al flight to Madrid. After several interruptions due to rocket attacks, the Ellises were successfully transported with an armed escort to the airport where they successfully boarded a flight out of the country.  

“It was a great relief to have Global Rescue’s security experts supporting us. They were incredibly knowledgeable. It was absolutely lifesaving assistance,” Ellis said. 

The Ellises were just two Global Rescue members assisted during Hamas’ attacks on Israel. Members from New York, New Jersey and elsewhere were among the nearly 70 people extracted from Israel or safely assisted immediately following the Hamas attacks. Global Rescue security operations experts provided extensive safety advisory guidance while coordinating security extractions using land and air transport. All operations were successful.