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Life after October 7 Hamas attack: Israeli couple loses their legs

I looked at my body and saw something unimaginable. “I don’t have a leg,” I shouted. Lying next to me, Ben whispered, “Don’t shout. If this is our fate, we accept it. At least we are together.” It felt like the end.

  • 4 weeks ago
  • May 18, 2024
6 min read
journalist’s notes
interview subject
Gali Segal, an accomplished interior designer from Yikneam, tragically lost her right leg during the Supernova Music Festival massacre on October 7, 2023. Despite the severe injuries she and her fiancé, Benjamin, sustained in the attack (both lost their right leg above the knee) they are determined to move forward with their lives. Gali and Ben, a passionate soccer player from Kibbutz Ramat Menashe, got engaged during a memorable vacation in Italy. They were introduced through a mutual friend and have supported each other through their recovery journey. The couple plans to proudly walk down the aisle with their new prosthetic legs.
background information
On the morning of October 7, 2023, Hamas launched a large-scale attack on southern Israel, firing over 5,000 rockets. The militants targeted the Supernova Music Festival and several kibbutzim near the Gaza border. Tragically, over 1,200 civilians were killed, and around 250 were abducted and dragged into Gaza. Among the survivors are Gali Segal and Ben Benjamin, who both lost their right legs in the explosion. They continue to receive treatment at Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera​​​ (Al Jazeera)​.

RE’IM, Israel — On the day my boyfriend Ben proposed to me during our vacation in Italy, it felt like the start of something new and wonderful. Full of excitement, back home in Israel, we attended the Supernova Music Festival on October 7, 2023. We wanted to get married in September and planned to book a wedding venue the next day, but everything changed for us when we became immersed in the Hamas terrorist attack.

Ben and I both sustained severe injuries when a grenade exploded in the van where we took shelter. Shrapnel penetrated my chest, side, legs, and pelvis. I underwent 13 surgeries and Ben faced seven. We both lost our right legs.

During the first month of recovery, my stump frequently became infected. The doctors opened my wounds weekly to drain the secretions. One moment, we were celebrating life and the next, we were fighting for it.

Read more stories out of Israel and Gaza.

Grenade explodes in the van where festival attendees huddle for safety

In a seven-year relationship, Ben and I lived in a rented apartment in Ramat Gam and life felt full of promise. I had recently completed my final year of an interior design program and Ben ran a real estate business. Though an injury sidelined him the previous year, he played soccer passionately.

After Ben proposed, attending the Supernova Music Festival in Israel felt like a celebration. We made our way to the Kibbutz Re’im with Ben’s brother, his partner, their cousin, and a mutual friend named Shani Gabbay. As we danced gleefully, the sudden sound of mortars exploding around us turned the party into a nightmare. Panicked, we ran toward our car and Shani ran with us.

People urged us not to go any further and a policeman directed us to a van deemed a mobile shelter. Already packed with people, we squeezed inside the cramped refuge, feeling desperate. Gunshots drew closer and I heard people screaming in terror.

The Hamas gunmen fired at the crowd gathered at the van’s entrance and I quickly pulled Ben and Shani back to protect them. Amidst the chaos of missiles and gunfire, which we hoped included the Israel Defense Forces, Ben, Shani, and I huddled together for safety. Suddenly, the terrorists hurled grenades into the van.

When the grenade exploded, it must have knocked us out. After regaining consciousness, everything seemed to be engulfed in darkness. I could hear Shani on the phone frantically reporting that Ben and I were injured, possibly fatally. I tried to speak, to let her know I was alive, but I couldn’t find my voice. She stayed on the phone, rooted to the spot where she sat with injured people surrounding us.

Young woman screams in pain as she realizes her leg had been torn from her body

As I lay there, the shock felt overwhelming. In an attempt to make sense of my surroundings, I looked at my body and saw something unimaginable. “I don’t have a leg,” I shouted. Lying next to me, Ben whispered, “Don’t shout. If this is our fate, we accept it. At least we are together.” It felt like the end. Just then, a SWAT officer arrived. He stopped cars and directed people to transport the wounded to an ambulance at the party’s entrance.

For the entire ambulance ride, I screamed in pain, aware that my leg had been torn from my body. I desperately wanted to survive. In an attempt to help, Ben called his brother who instructed him to use his shirt to stem the bleeding. Facing death, I felt a strange sense of relief with Ben by my side. He kissed me and said, “We are together in this.”

Prioritizing my evacuation, the SWAT team moved me to a vehicle filled with other injured people. “Please bring Ben as well,” I pleaded. When they did not immediately bring Ben out, I feared he died. Finally, as they brough him forward, he saw a woman’s body lying on the ground. I watched as he reacted, thinking for several seconds it was my body on the ground.

At the Soroka Medical Center, doctors deemed Ben’s condition critical, uncertain of his survival. Time ticked on and when they finally moved him to another room, I caught sight of him and called out. When he waved back at me, a massive sense of relief flooded my body. We were both alive, but each of us lost our right leg.

Israeli couple who lost their legs during Hamas terror attack will walk down the aisle on prosthetic legs

Between us, Ben and I underwent 20 surgeries. After a month in the hospital, we moved to the Sheba rehabilitation department, where we spent four months. The doctors finally discharged us in March 2024. Ben and I moved to an apartment in Kibbutz Ramat Menashe, close to his parents. We continue to receive rehabilitation services twice a week.

In the hospital, Ben and I supported one another, coming to terms with the physical and emotional losses. We began to learn more about the extent of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. About a month after the attack, we had no word of our friend Shani who fled to the van with us. Initially, we believed she had been abducted like so many other Israelis. Then we heard the devastating news. They found her body among other young men and women burned alive in an abandoned ambulance.

For six months after the attack, Ben I dealt with the impact of loss, but now we try to focus on the positives, excitedly planning our wedding for this September. Ben still cries when he sees a boy playing soccer – a sport he dedicated his life to. These scenes remind us, we still have many adjustments to make as we face our new reality. Sometimes he comforts me by saying, “It’s just a leg,” but other times, he admits, “It’s not me anymore.” 

Our experiences uniquely align. We both had our right legs amputated above the knee and face the same rehab process. I find solace in that. Though we never would have chosen this, it brings me comfort never having to say, “You don’t understand what I’m going through.” Our shared experience deepens our bond; we understand one another.

As our rehab nears an end, we mark a new beginning; a time to celebrate the love and life we still have. We will delay nothing anymore. Though we have not chosen a venue yet, one thing we know for certain is that we will both walk down the aisle on prosthetic legs. I won’t meet him at the end; we will walk together, share a slow dance, and honor our resilience and our enduring love.

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