Red alert sirens, boom, boom, boom. I can hear the rockets being intercepted above my apartment building.

For the last few nights I have had the same routine. Go to bed, wake up to a siren, run to the bomb shelter, huddle together with my friends, hear the rockets, wait 10 minutes, text my family and friends that I am safe, go back to sleep, and repeat.

As I write this, I am functioning on three days of hardly any sleep. As a first-timer experiencing rockets and bomb shelters, I am scared and exhausted. My friends and I have never been through anything like this before. Of course I always knew that Israel was constantly under threat, but I never imagined that the threats would lead to the danger that the Israelis, and all of us students who call Israel home this year would experience.

The feeling of running from my bed to the bomb shelter is like no other and somewhat unexplainable. The rush of adrenaline is accompanied by feelings of fear and anxiety.

Danya’s friends check in with friends and family in the bomb shelter during a recent missile attack. Photo by Danya Belkin

These sensations don’t disappear after 10 minutes because the bomb threats may happen again, at any time. I am lucky to live in a building with friends as we have each other for support and calm.

I was surprised to find that the day following the first night of rocket attacks, life seemed to resume to “normal.” How could one feel safe enough to just pick up their daily routine again? This is the Israeli way of life. Sadly, they are accustomed to daily threats and they don’t let it stop them from interrupting their routines.

My friends and family at home have it hard too. They await my messages because all they know is what they see on the news. Many media reports are inaccurate. I can’t count how many messages I’ve sent to my loved ones saying, “There are rockets, I am in a bomb shelter and I am safe.”

I am lucky to have very supportive friends and family who have consistently checked in on me to ensure that I am okay.

As I am living this experience, I am shocked and disappointed to see posts throughout social media about the events in Israel, many of which are false and insensitive. I believe many young people are looking for a cause to rally behind.

Israeli security forces at the scene where a fragment of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in South Tel Aviv, on May 13, 2021. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Unfortunately, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and most people have no historical background on which to base their conclusions. I find myself explaining to people back home, through text, the facts about the current situation in Israel.

In the last several days I have also witnessed rising antisemitism, especially when I read or hear about events going on throughout the world. I feel frustrated that mandatory ethnic studies curriculums mostly exclude information about the Jewish people.

Hearing about what is happening on the news and social media from my safe home in the United States is such a different experience than being in Israel and hearing the rockets above me.

Now that I have gone through this, I can say I’ve had the true Israeli experience. I hope to use this experience as an opportunity to share and educate others about Israel, its citizens and the Jewish people.