Twenty-eight people from the Quad Cities have returned safely from a pilgrimage in Israel.

The residents were in Israel when the Hamas attacks began on October 7. Rev. Paul Appel, a pastor with the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Clinton was one of the 28 residents in Israel. “All of a sudden the sirens started going off,” Appel said. “The bus driver says get in the back of the bus, because a rocket attack had happened. As we’re heading to the bus you hear boom, boom, boom. That was the iron dome going off, the system that shoots down the rockets.”

Appel told Local 4 News that he felt safe once the group arrived in the neighboring country, Jordan. “We didn’t see any explosions, but you could hear them,” Appel said. “We knew something was going on. You see other people getting worried but it’s like is that really happening because it feels like a movie, it doesn’t feel real. As soon as everybody starts rushing for the bus, I’m, like, okay; this is real. Let’s get out of here.”

Rev. Ben Snyder from Bettendorf was also a part of the group in Israel. Snyder said they almost did not make it to the neighboring country, Jordan, because of border shutdowns. “We left on Thursday, got across the border, and then come to find out from our taxi driver Friday night that, how did you get through?” Snyder said. “I said, well, we went across the border. He told me the border closed yesterday. So we were one of the last groups to get across the border, and they closed it for a couple of days.”

Snyder said it was also difficult to get flights back to the United States. “There was a group that we were with or had traveled with from Israel to Jordan,” Snyder said. “They were still waiting for a flight, and the earliest they were expecting was Tuesday.”