UPDATE: (10/11/2023): Marc Cohen, the Rochester man who was on lockdown in Tel Aviv following Saturday’s deadly attacks, announced that he is making his way to the United States soon.
Cohen posted on his X account Monday morning that he and his family had arrived in Dubai and thanked those who helped them stay safe, despite the circumstances. He posted in part:
“There are no words strong enough to convey our gratitude for Israel’s defense forces, for all the prayers and calls and messages these last few days, and for the many people who helped us stay safe and informed.”
On Wednesday, Cohen posted on X again confirming that he and his family are on a flight heading to Buffalo. He said that he was relieved that he was on his way home, but that he was devasted for those who lost their lives or were captured.
Cohen is asking everyone to pray for the people of Israel and those who are looking for safety during these difficult times.
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Fighting is intensifying in Israel and Gaza. The U.S. will send a carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean to Israel as it battles the militant group Hamas following Saturday’s deadly attacks.
The Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas Sunday after a devastating surprise attack killed at least 700 civilians and members of the military. News 8 spoke with one person from Rochester who tells us he has been in lockdown at a hotel in Tel Aviv since the attacks began.
Marc Cohen says he and his family arrived in Israel on Wednesday last week, vacationing there to celebrate the holiday of Simchat Torah, typically filled with music, food, dancing and joy.
“We went to a new friend’s home that evening for dinner in their Sukkah and we woke up Saturday morning to sirens and rockets and mortars coming from terrorists in the south from Hamas,” Cohen describes via a Zoom interview Sunday afternoon (Rochester time).
According to Cohen, Israel is in a ‘constant battle’ or often attempted to be infiltrated by terrorist organizations. But this recent attack, reportedly coordinated by air, land, and sea, and on the day of the Jewish holiday, is felt deeply.
“For it to be where it was, the veracity, the intensity, the kidnappings, the murdering of children, of families of innocent civilians — not military targets, but residential targets is unprecedented,” Cohen says.
“The experience that we’ve had in Tel Aviv has been scary for sure but please make no mistake that we are certainly not in the thick of it. We are hunkered down at our hotel. We are safe, we have electricity; we have food and water. We are by no means bearing the brunt of this in any way. And so it’s important that, while we’ve experienced acts of terrorism here, we’re by and large relatively safe and okay, and that others have it far worse.”
Cohen goes on to describe what happened Saturday morning and into the day when he and his family were sent by the hotel to the bomb shelter, noting hotels in Israel are built with bomb shelters to be housed in the stairwells.
“The first time we were sent to the bomb shelter, soon after we felt explosions…the vibrations of the explosions that were happening right in Tel Aviv. And thank God my family, and those who are with us are safe, but many were not, and throughout last night, multiple times the general alarm sounded outside which triggered the hotel to sound their alarm, and back we went to the bomb shelters,” says Cohen, who again notes other families are experiencing far more dire situations.
As of Sunday evening (Rochester time), Cohen and his family are awaiting coordination for departure to another nearby country to then hopefully swiftly make a return to the U.S. safely.
Cohen emphasizes the confidence he feels in having local leaders support Israel and condemn the attacks. He also reiterates a debt of gratitude to several key leaders assisting Cohen and his family through these uncertain times.
“The fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans and certainly more nationals, foreign nationals from around the world, can make my family, the five of us seem insignificant and nobody’s more important than anybody else in terms of getting to safety,” Cohen begins.
“We have a member of Congress from Rochester, Joe Morelle, who has gone above and beyond and his team has gone above and beyond to get us information to lead us to the State Department, to get us as up-to-date and critical information as possible in a timely manner and thanking him is not a strong enough term,” he says.
“Meredith Dragon is the CEO of the Rochester Jewish Federation. Meredith has been connecting us with people in Israel, from security forces who have given us input and tips on how to stay safe and be vigilant…And Katie Carroll with Delta airlines….has been an absolute Godsend and those three people are helping to keep us safe and I’m sure many many others in our situation,” Cohen concludes.
Meredith Dragon spoke with News 8 on Saturday following the initial surprise attacks by Hamas on Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester will be holding a candlelight vigil Monday night, standing in solidarity with Israel.