This Aunt Won’t Give Up: Celebrating a Gaza Hostage, Naama Levy, While Waiting for Her Return

More than 100 people from the spectrum of Israeli society — from the Orthodox to secular kibbutz members — attend a special public event to celebrate Levy’s Hebrew birthday according to the Jewish calendar.

Anav Silverman Peretz
Sarit Levy on stage next to a poster of Naama Levy, her niece who has been held hostage in Gaza for nine months. Anav Silverman Peretz

When Sarit Levy marked her 50th birthday this week, the married mother of five did not forget her beloved niece held hostage in Gaza who shares her birth date. She mobilized family members and together they organized a special public event to celebrate Naama Levy’s Hebrew birthday according to the Jewish calendar. More than 100 people from the spectrum of Israeli society — from the Orthodox to secular kibbutz members — attended the event Monday night. 

“I feel very close to Naama,” Ms. Levy explained to The New York Sun. “I remember our last conversation together during a family gathering before she was kidnapped last year. I wanted to do something today that would send Naama positive thoughts and energies on her Hebrew birthday.” 

Naama Levy, an IDF observer monitoring surveillance cameras at the Nahal Oz military base, was kidnapped on October 7. A Hamas video showed a bloodied Ms. Levy with her hands tied and barefoot in Gaza. Her long brown hair was pulled by a Hamas terrorist as he forced her into a black pickup truck at gunpoint. Six other female IDF soldiers were taken hostage by Hamas gunmen that day. Five are still being held in Gaza, including Naama. 

Naama turned 20 years old while in Hamas captivity. Her secular birthday date, June 22, was marked by thousands of people in demonstrations across Israel and at the Hostages Square at Tel Aviv last month. 

The event on Monday night, held at Ramat HaNegev High School in the Negev highlands where Sarit and her family live, had a different atmosphere. A Chabad rabbi led a 45-minute talk to the mostly secular audience about the importance of positive thinking in times of distress. “The expected response to the tragedies that have befallen our nation are depression and anxiety. But the secret to overcoming this struggle is the faith and confidence that good will be revealed,” Rabbi Yitzhak Arad said. “Faith can change reality.” 

“It is very moving to be here,” he added. “How does something so terrible like this happen? We are all going through this pain together and must believe that Naama will get out healthy and well.” 

Some of the “acts of faith” that attendees took part in included creating birthday cards for Nama Levy as well as pieces of jewelry. A dressmaker sewed a light blue dress for the hostage while others gave charity. ”We hope to deliver these birthday gifts to Naama as soon as she returns,” her aunt said. 

For one resident of Midreshet Ben Gurion, Inbar Ram, it was important to come out to show support. “I’m not into the massive demonstrations,” she said. “There’s so much anger in those protests and I want to avoid that.”

“This kind of event is special, and it feels that just by coming out here tonight, I’m helping the family in some small way,” she added.

“I never anticipated this kind of event for my granddaughter,” Naama’s grandmother, Devorah Levy, said. “So many people are thinking of Naama, hoping for her to come home.”

With tears in her eyes, she added: “It’s been over nine months without my granddaughter here. We have to continue to believe that she will return.”

The New York Sun

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