Nothing in Kiri Crittenden's travel dreams included spending her 19th birthday in a war zone following the Hamas terror attacks on Israel.
But that's where the award-winning Bulli Surf Life Saving Club patrol member finds herself today, turning 19 in a Jerusalem whose streets are deserted and whose citizens are scared the next wave of rocket attacks will come their way.
Ms Crittenden, who graduated from Woonona High School a year ago, had been in the country just six days when the rocket attacks started, having changed her travel plans at the last minute and headed to Jerusalem.
The killing had been confined to the south of Israel and the Gaza strip but yesterday, Ms Crittensen said, a rocket aimed at Jerusalem landed not far from where she was staying.
The rocket was headed for Jerusalem but was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system and exploded mid-air.
"Welcome to Israel," one local told her the first time she and her workmates were evacuated to shelters, following the first wave of strikes.
Ms Crittenden spoke to the Mercury after farewelling friends who were headed off through the West Bank to cross the border into Jordan. She opted to stay, hoping a commercial flight out of Tel Aviv would be able to take her to Turkey - but it seemed to have been cancelled.
"It was safe where I am - except yesterday when a rocket did hit and it injured nine people," she said.
"It was aimed for Jerusalem."
The streets were deserted and tension was high as foreigners tried to find a safe way out.
"There is still public transport running but there are very few people on the street, very few shops open," Ms Crittenden said.
"When we go out to get groceries, we are going for a maximum five minutes.
"The first time we got evacuated there was a girl that came in off the street ... she said 'Welcome to Israel guys'. This is just a common day which was kind of sad and scary for her."
Ms Crittenden arrived in Israel on October 1, arriving in Jerusalem a day before the attacks, wanting to engage more with cultures beyond the "Western privilege" she knew.
"I was meant to go to Canada on October 4 and I changed all my plans to come here.
"I wanted to learn more about like the political and the religious history that is Israel, and why it is the most contested country in the world because I feel like lots of people are misinformed about why it is."
She found herself in the worst conflict in Israel for 50 years, as the Palestinian leadership group Hamas launched deadly attacks on Israeli civilians - through the air with rockets, and on the ground with gunmen killing hundreds of families in their homes, and hundreds more young people at a music festival.
Israel's response has been brutal, with Gaza repeatedly bombed and high-rise buildings flattened. There will be much more to come - Israel has declared war and Hamas threatened it would execute Israeli and international hostages it has taken.
Ms Crittenden had received no help from the Australian Government or consulate.
"I actually got news this morning that a Portuguese flight had landed and all the Portuguese citizens are gone on a carrier flight, but the Australian consulate has done absolutely nothing," she said.
"They were actually closed the day that this happened and their phones did not connect so there was no way to get to the Australian consulate in Israel, but I did contact the emergency consulate in Canberra to register.
"Their advice was to check Smart Traveller, which is probably not most reputable source, I don't believe, because they only upgraded its advice from 'reconsider your travel' to 'don't travel' yesterday [Monday].
"It's just unbelievable that this lack this 'objective reputable source' is so slow on getting that information out.
"And from the consulate I'm told 'you should be checking this website'. I just don't trust it anymore.
"After the hits yesterday, close to where I am, only 20km away, I called and they had no idea about it. I asked 'is there going to be flights coming for Australian citizens? And it was 'oh, no, the government's not, we have not considered this at all. They said they will make a note on my file that I've asked about it."
As Israel mobilised hundreds of thousands of defence force reservists, Ms Crittenden said many young Israelis were ready to go to war in the coming days and weeks.
"I know personally a lot of Israelis, none that have been killed but a bunch that have friends that have been killed, who are now ready to serve their country," she said.
"They are ready first in line, [saying] yes, we will serve and we're not going to back down. They're scared but they backed the country before that."
With accurate information hard to find Mr Crittenden set up a WhatsApp group for people back home to get the real story about conditions on the ground.
"Now everyone that's really concerned and wants constant updates has that source to look to because there's so much misinformation about this ... no-one knows anything.
"I'm making it my mission to calm people down because they're obviously less calm than I am."
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