by: Ian Silver Updated:
JENKS, Okla. - From Jenks to Israel, a local teen found himself in the middle of the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Gabriel Torianyk was walking the halls of Jenks High School just three months ago, now he’s in southern Israel less than 20 miles from the fighting in Gaza.
He told me it’s been an exciting and sometimes frightening experience.
“I was at the mall in the city and one of the alarms went off and we all had to rush down to a bomb shelter,” said Torianyk.
As terrified Israelis rushed to safety with him, suddenly Torianyk realized he was a long way from home in Jenks.
“You always think of the worst case scenario, but I mean it all just happened so fast. You hear the alarm, and then a few seconds later you hear the explosion of it being shot down from the sky. And then you feel safe again,” he said.
And while he’s still miles away from the center of the conflict, the war still seems to surround him when he sees tanks rolling by him in the streets and the Iron Dome missile defense system shooting rockets out of the sky.
“It’s kind of scary, because, I mean, at night you can hear all the bombs and explosions. And you hear helicopters and jets fly over you. But even with all that you still feel really safe because they have so many precautions for if a missile gets near you or anything,” he said.
Torianyk has been in southern Israel for less than a week.
He’s the son of a Canadian father and Israeli mother and he made the decision to enlist in the Israeli army, hoping to be placed in a combat unit.
“No parents want to send their kids off to a war zone, pretty much, to a battle field. But they understand it is ultimately my decision and they’ll support that fully,” said Torianyk.
And even though he made the decision before the latest fighting broke out he said the conflict only strengthened his resolve.
“It’s something that I definitely don’t regret doing,” he said.
But he said the sounds of war and knowing he’ll soon be part of it has made him think a lot about how great life in northeast Oklahoma is and all the family and friends he left behind.
Torianyk begins basic training in November and will serve in the army for three years.