A British-Israeli man whose home was completely destroyed by Hamas has said it is a “very tough pill to swallow” to accept that “everything’s gone”.
Worcestershire-born graphic designer Ben King, 52, and his wife Meyrav, 52, spent 12 hours lying on the floor of their safe room in Kibbutz Be’eri, southern Israel, after Hamas stormed the area. They escaped after Israeli forces arrived in the area.
The couple and their children Jon, 23, and Shalev, 19, as well as Jon’s girlfriend Leila, 21, have been evacuated to a hotel on the Dead Sea in Israel, where they are sheltering with others who have fled the conflict.
Mr King said it was “a miracle” the family were alive but said he was still “shocked” when he saw pictures and video of his burnt-out home taken by his brother Simon King.
The 59-year-old landscape gardener, who is currently staying at the same hotel, had some work in the kibbutz area where he also has a home and told the PA news agency he was struck by the feeling of “emptiness” as he walked through his brother’s devastated home.
“I was walking on his tiles which had collapsed because they’d been so burnt – it was like walking on a beach with shells on,” he said.
“There was a smell of burnt wood and burnt rubber and plastic and it was shocking to see the house so empty.
“All my brother’s guitars and his computer screens where he used to make music and his wife’s sewing machine have just been totally burnt down to the ground.”
He said there only appeared to be one item which was intact – a shirt hanger frame from Ikea.
He also saw the remnants of “a lot of devastation” in the kibbutz.
“There were burnt areas on places where there used to be grass and I was told that they put bodies there and burnt them,” he said.
His family have lost loved ones to the conflict, with his sons losing friends because they have been burnt or shot.
“They’ve also lost female friends who have been kidnapped and we don’t know whether they’re alive or dead,” he added.
Ben King told PA that when he saw that his home was completely burnt, he was “stunned”.
“I know I was just being hopeful that there might have been a corner left untouched, but I was quite shocked and possibly stunned at the complete loss of everything that I called home and my family called home,” he said.
“It’s a very tough pill to swallow and I think I’m probably still processing it because every time I see things that remind me of my home, I have to remind myself that I haven’t got that any more – you haven’t got a computer, you haven’t got that sofa or those photo albums that you look through once a year.
“They’re all gone, everything’s gone.”
Despite this, he said that it is a “huge relief” and a “blessing” having his wife and children with him at the hotel.
“None of us have any physical scars or physical injuries and we’re all here together,” he said.
“That is amazing because the loss of life is unfathomable – every day we get confirmation of the lives that have been lost and there’s a lot of sadness and a lot of funerals.
“On a daily basis, we say to ourselves – it’s a miracle we’re alive because the attack was so random.”
Ben King said he “cried and hugged” his brother when they were reunited at the hotel on October 8. His sister-in-law Zehavit, 51 and nephews Amir, 14, and Ori, 13, are also there.
The family are taking “every day as it comes” but have “floated the idea of living abroad somewhere”, he said: “Possibly England, but it’s in the air.”
“I don’t think I’d like to go back to the kibbutz just yet and also the kibbutz will never – you could say in a million years – be the same place because a lot of characters in the kibbutz will no longer be there because they lost their lives.
“That is also going to change how the community looks, but the community spirit in the kibbutz is very strong.
“Some people have even said – why don’t we build a new kibbutz further away or somewhere safer, but that would be a massive undertaking.”
Simon King added that Israel is “coming together like a massive family” despite facing ordeal.
“At our hotel, we have brand names coming in and donating shoes, clothes and toiletries and celebrities come to visit, but I’d like to see the government supporting the people a lot more,” he added.
A JustGiving link for the family can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Kingfamily