Marblehead man escapes Israel during attacks, returns home

Jacob Abbisso, 23, is relieved to be back home in Marblehead, after escaping the Hamas attacks in Israel last week. He was in Jerusalem studying to be a rabbi at Hebrew Union College. 

Jacob Abbisso of Marblehead with his parents (James Abbisso and Melinda Grosser) in Jerusalem just days before the bloody Hamas attacks. COURTESY PHOTO

“Saturday morning I woke up to my program director calling and asking me if I’m safe. I asked him, ‘What do you mean?’ and then I heard the sirens outside. I grabbed my parents who were visiting and we ran to the stairwell. That’s the safest place in my apartment building to shelter in case of missile attacks.”

A screenshot of the Home Front Command app in Israel, announcing missile fire. COURTESY JACOB ABBISSO

Abbisso says it takes missiles about 90 seconds to get from Gaza to Jerusalem, so that’s how long he and his parents had to get to shelter. For the next few days, he watched the news and his phone apps, which alerted him about incoming missiles and attacks across Israel.

He and his parents finally got a flight to Boston Wednesday night.

“We left for the airport and in the back of my mind, there’s always the chance… What if there’s an ambush? What if a rocket hits the road right in front of us? There is fighting going on. So it’s scary.”

Once at the airport, they had to wait in line for four hours. Then, sirens went off and a security recording instructed the hundreds of people to go to the airport’s bomb shelters or at least crouch down. 

“We all just had to get down on the floor and hope for the best. We heard big blasts going off. People were screaming and yelling. It was like a surreal scene in a movie.”

A sign directing airport passengers to a bomb shelter. COURTESY PHOTO / JACOB ABBISSO

The Abbissos landed back in Boston safely Thursday morning. Jacob has been staying in touch with his friends who stayed in Israel. 

“Some people are saying, ‘Wow, I wish I was back in the U.S.’ There are a number of students who think it’s noble to stay in Israel. Kudos to them for having the fortitude to be able to withstand all of this… to continue to study as normal and volunteer with organizations that are supplying soldiers and families.”

He said his phone had buzzed with several alerts in the last hour alone. “There were a number of rockets that were fired, landing in the Tel Aviv area.”

Abbisso won’t be heading back to Israel for the rest of this semester, or maybe even the rest of the year. 

“I have a little PTSD,” he said. The cannons firing from Marblehead’s yacht clubs Thursday evening made him jump.

“Then I remembered, I’m back in Marblehead. I’m safe.”

Abbisso has a message for people watching the war in Israel and Gaza.

“First and foremost, I want people to know that these are individual people with lives and stories who are the direct targets of the attacks on Israel. This is different than two countries going to war. The attacks are happening on civilians. Civilians are the target.”

Before heading to Israel, Abbisso was a fisherman in town and owned Big Fish Mojo Sports Fishing. He made headlines last spring when he rescued two little girls and their babysitter from their kayak in rough seas.

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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