Hamas attack survivor star of Israel's amputee football team. GETTY IMAGES

Ben Binyamin was a professional footballer who was left for dead by Hamas militants when they stormed Israel on 7 October 2023, but after extensive rehabilitation he is now a defender for the Israeli national amputee team.

For Ben Binyamin, life changed in an instant after the Hamas terror attack. He went from being a professional footballer, to thinking he was dead in a matter of seconds, to having his leg amputated, and then, after rehabilitation, back to playing football (for amputees) with his Israeli team. All in the space of six months.

Binyamin was celebrating his 29th birthday at the Supernova music festival, where 364 people died, sparking an unprecedented conflict in the region, and a significant humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with over 110,000 casualties.

Six months later, he is the rock at the heart of Israel's amputee national football team, which dreams of winning the Euro 2024 tournament in France next June. He lost his right leg when attackers threw four grenades and fired at an air raid shelter where he and his friends were taking refuge. His fiancée also lost a leg.

"I never thought I would play football again," said the former professional player from Kiryat Yam, one of Israel's rising stars. "I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to walk, let alone run," said the man who also played for Hapoel Acre, Hapoel Nof Hagalil, MS Kafr Qasim and, most recently, Ironi Ashdod (Southern A League).

Binyamin doesn't like to dwell on the horrors of the 7 October attack, which left some 1,160 people dead in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an official Israeli tally by AFP.

Shichrur and Binyamin at a training session for the Israeli amputee football team. GETTY IMAGES
Shichrur and Binyamin at a training session for the Israeli amputee football team. GETTY IMAGES

He lost friends. The body of one of his friends, Shani Louk, was displayed in Gaza after the massacre, according to the Israeli foreign ministry. Two of his other teammates at the training session near Tel Aviv were soldiers who lost their legs fighting in Gaza.

The man who recruited them from their hospital beds, Zach Shichrur, knows what they've been through. "Your life is not over," he told them as he told his own moving story. Recruiter Shichrur's foot was crushed when he was hit by a bus at the age of eight. After decades of severe pain and reconstructive surgery, the 35-year-old lawyer decided he was "better off without my foot".

"It was a tough decision, but the best one I have ever made. With prosthetics, I can not only do things that any normal person can do, but also things I never thought I'd be able to do, like surfing, kitesurfing and snowboarding," he told AFP. Shichrur describes the amputation as a kind of liberation. "It broke my cage and gave me the wings I always wanted." 

The founder and captain of Israel's national amputee team has instilled the same unbreakable optimism in his teammates. "It is the privilege of my life to support my friends... guys who woke up not knowing if they would walk again. We have shown that not only can you return to a normal life, but you can play football with one leg and play for your country," he concluded.

Nearly 33,000 people have died in Israel's response to the 7 October attack, according to the territory's health ministry. "Before 7 October, I thought there could be peace... and I have many Arab friends - even from Jenin - who ask about me," he said, referring to a disputed city in the occupied West Bank.

"I can't believe there will be peace, because all they want is our destruction. But we won't leave here, no matter what happens," declared Binyamin, who spent years "playing for Arab teams" in Israel and has "experienced religious-political conflicts at first hand".