Several people have asked if I'm scared of being in Israel with all of this happening. If I told you I wasn't I would be lying.
When the siren goes off we have 15 seconds to get into a shelter or safe room, and for many people this is not enough time.
A few days ago there was a rocket that hit approximately 20 meters from where I'm staying in Kiryat Gat. Luckily, I was in Ashdod when it happened and it was just an "ordinary day" (well as ordinary as you can get in this type of situation) until my cousin's husband came in into the room and told me, "Liel, there has been a rocket that hit Kiryat Gat."
I immediately ran to see the television where Uncle Haim pointed out the house I was staying in, and how close it was. It was just around the corner, about four houses down from my aunt and uncle’s home. A car was on fire, but we didn't know much aside from that. Everyone was calling my aunt and my uncle to make sure everyone was ok. I was extremely frightened and praying that no one was killed or injured. We could see the houses on TV, and the phones in the neighborhood were ringing nonstop.
Afterward, I learned the whole story. My aunt had left to run some errands when the siren went off. She ran into the closest shelter, and waited until it was safe to go back out. My uncle, however, was at home. When the siren went off he shouted for his son, Adir, but my uncle didn't know that Adir wasn't home. He became very worried until a couple of seconds later when Adir came running in and ran into the shelter with my uncle. Seven seconds later they heard a big "BOOM." The whole house started to shake and they knew the rocket had fallen very close by.
Within minutes help arrived to take care of the two injured civilians. My grandmother called crying on the phone because she was so worried that something had happened. My aunt and uncle's phone was always ringing, so when their other two children tried to call, they kept getting a busy signal. Once they were finally able to reach their parents they were crying. Even though none of my family was hurt, it was yet another reminder of the true nature of what we are dealing with.
It is situations like this that bring all Israelis together. We aren't individuals anymore. We become just one person with the same goal.
When I arrived back in Kiryat Gat, it was around 22:00, four hours after the rocket hit. I wanted to see where it was and what it looked like so my aunt and uncle took me. It was dark but people were walking all around trying to get a look at the damage.
The next day, I was sitting outside with my family talking about the situation when around six boys in their 20s came up to our house and gave us roses and a letter. They were from an organization and were giving flowers to everyone in the neighborhood that had been affected by this incident. Later we were greeted with homemade food that someone had made for us.
Our neighborhood was so united, but it wasn't just us taking care of each other – it was all of Israel. Everyone was showing support for us, all over the country.
I've been in several arguments about this conflict, about this war, with people that I know. Most don't know the facts and some people don't even know why the war started in the first place. I've tried several techniques to give facts and statistics to prove who the true “bad guys” are, but they refuse to believe it.
Living in the situation, it has given me so much more insight as to how Israelis are and what the truth is. Hamas can try over and over to drive us apart, but the more they try the stronger we grow. I was frightened when I saw what damage the rocket had caused, but I know that Israel will do everything in its power to protect its civilians. Everything.
So even though the pro-Palestinians I've talked to have called me "Netanyahu's meat puppet," saying that "I'm just a kid" and I don’t know what I'm talking about, hearing all of this makes me realize how much I'm proud to stand by Israel. I'm proud to stand by it, especially during this difficult time. I can say that yes I may be just a kid, but I know my facts and I know where I stand.
Liel Hagen Dokarker is a Chicago Diller Teen Fellow.