CNN —  When he heard that Hamas militants were attacking a music festival his family was attending, Ben said Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for his mother.

“I didn’t know what to do. I said please kill her because it would be better than being kidnapped,” Ben, whose surname CNN is not using for security concerns, said on Wednesday. “It’s a nightmare. I said ‘please kill her, don’t take her there.’”

Over WhatsApp, he watched, helpless, as his mother and younger brother sent updates for eight hours, telling him that they were hiding in small bushes, hearing gunfire and people walking past saying “Allahu Akbar.”

“(Every message) took about two minutes to arrive and in between there was no communication,” he said. “Every two minutes you are tearing your hair out to get an answer.”

Eventually, Ben heard of a secure location, sent the map to his brother and they managed to escape from the festival.

The next morning, Ben flew to Israel from London where he lives with his British wife and children.

He is one of many Israelis returning home from abroad as their country’s long-running conflict with Hamas escalates into a war not seen on this scale for a generation. To cope with the increasing demand, Israeli airlines El Al, Israir and Arkia added more flights on Tuesday to repatriate military reservists, Reuters reported.

Cutting short holidays or uprooting their everyday lives overseas, these Israelis are returning for funerals, in preparation for being called up into the military reserves, carrying supplies back with them, or to help protect their communities.

At least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel following Hamas’ deadly and brutal attack on October 7 when its militants broke through the heavily fortified border from Gaza, leaving atrocities in their wake.

Continue reading