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Thousands gather to support Naama Levy on her 20th birthday on day 260 in Hamas captivity

Israelis protest calling for the release of Israelis held hostage in the Gaza Strip and mark the 20th birthday of Naama Levy in captivity, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, June 22, 2024. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

In a huge outpouring of public support and compassion, thousands gathered in Tel Aviv for the 20th birthday of Naama Levy, still being held hostage in Gaza after 260 days.

Levy, one of the five IDF spotters kidnapped from the IDF Nahal Oz base on Oct. 7, turned 20 on Saturday.

In a letter published in the New York Post, Levy’s mother, Ayelet Levy Shachar, wrote: "This is a letter no mother should ever have to write to her daughter. Today is your 20th birthday. You should be celebrating this occasion surrounded by friends and family."

"Instead, you are enduring your 260th day as a hostage in Gaza surrounded by terrorists… Ever since your abduction, we have been working relentlessly and in every way possible to bring you home. Every day without you is a day without air. The uncertainty and dread I experience is suffocating, and each passing day that you are not with us feels like an eternity. We will not stop fighting for you until you are home."

Levy's image has become a symbol for those campaigning for Israeli women’s cries to be heard. 

Scenes of the teenage girl being dragged, bound and bleeding, from the back of a truck and forced into the back seat shocked millions around the world. The blood on her tracksuit bottoms and the cut on her Achilles heel testified to some of what Levy had already endured.

The nation was shocked again by the release of another video in May, filmed by one of the terrorists involved in the raid on Nahal Oz. In the video, the female military spotters can be seen handcuffed, bleeding, and answering questions from their Hamas captors.

In an effort to portray a fuller picture of Naama Levy beyond the shocking image, there has been a determined push to share photos and footage of her life before her capture.

Israeli author and activist, Hen Mazzig, wrote on X: “Naama is so much more than a hostage and the infamous video of her kidnapping. Naama is a seasoned triathlete and activist with Hands of Peace, which promotes peace between Israeli and Palestinian youth. She even volunteered with the Red Cross. The director of The Alliance for Middle East Peace, which Hands of Peace is a member of, described Naama as “a bright and bubbly young lady.”

Mazzig shares the family’s hope that her training and character will help the 20-year-old endure her ordeal in Gaza: “Between triathlons and peace advocacy, her family said that Naama is used to tackling obstacles and withstanding trials, and they hope it’s helping her withstand Hamas’ atrocities.”  

Thousands of Israelis have been marching every week to demand the release of the hostages.

Jo Elizabeth has a great interest in politics and cultural developments, studying Social Policy for her first degree and gaining a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Haifa University, but she loves to write about the Bible and its primary subject, the God of Israel. As a writer, Jo spends her time between the UK and Jerusalem, Israel.

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