'Unlike me, Naama couldn't go home and resume her life'

Bound and ‘bloodied’ girl shocks Brazilians into comprehending Hamas horrors

Facing global silence on Hamas’s Oct. 7 sexual assaults, Brazil’s Jewish community joined a growing protest movement with the reenactment of Naama Levy’s real abduction

Actress Alessandra Dayan is pulled through the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a graphic reenactment of the real-life abduction of Naama Levy by Hamas terrorists, November 30, 2023. (Abner Palma/Fisesp)
Actress Alessandra Dayan is pulled through the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a graphic reenactment of the real-life abduction of Naama Levy by Hamas terrorists, November 30, 2023. (Abner Palma/Fisesp)

SAO PAULO, Brazil — As a bloodied young woman with bound hands was forced down the sidewalk by a masked man in black, time seemed to stand still for passersby on the bustling, upscale Oscar Freire street in São Paulo.

Nestled in one of the city’s most sophisticated neighborhoods and with its pedestrian promenade, upscale boutiques, and fine restaurants and cafes lending an unmistakable aura of affluence, Oscar Freire usually feels safe.

Patrons at elegant eateries were jolted from their leisurely conversations and shocked onlookers toting shopping bags stopped to whisper in disbelief as they struggled to comprehend what they were seeing.

And that’s exactly what the man in black wanted — and his captive, too. The pair were actors reproducing the real-life abduction of 19-year-old Naama Levy by Hamas terrorists during the October 7 onslaught in which 1,200 people in southern Israel were murdered, most of them civilians, and another 253 were abducted to the Gaza Strip.

The massacre was stunning in its brutality, with entire families killed, many of them burned alive in their homes, amid rampant acts of torture, mutilation and rape. Levy, who to all appearances was sexually assaulted by Hamas on October 7, was kidnapped by the terrorists while sheltering in her home’s safe room in Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

The November 30 São Paulo reenactment is one of many that are taking place across the globe. In late January, dozens of protestors entered London’s Tate Modern to demand the release of Levy and all hostages, as well as raise awareness for the sexual abuse many have undergone, and may still be facing.

Women with their mouths taped hold placards as they take part in a ‘Save Our Girls’ demonstration outside the Tate Modern museum, in central London, on January 26, 2024, to bring attention to the plight of the kidnapped Israeli women in Gaza who as of January 26 had been held by the Hamas terror group for over 110 days. (Daniel Leal/AFP)

Twenty-one-year-old actress Alessandra Dayan, who portrayed Levy in the São Paulo reenactment, told The Times of Israel that assuming the role brought great emotional turmoil.

“Unlike me, Naama didn’t have the chance to return home, take a shower, and resume her normal life after what happened,” she said.

Like many of the atrocities committed that day by terrorists who used body cams and even the victims’ own phones to record and upload their brutalization to social media, Levy’s abduction was caught on video.

The images of Levy being forced out of the trunk of a Jeep and into the back seat, blood staining her sweatpants, went viral on Telegram on the day she was kidnapped, just hours after the Hamas invasion began. While some watched the video live, its disturbing images continued to impact many more over the following days and months and were amplified by the many reenactments of her kidnapping.

“The video haunted me,” Dayan admitted. As she walked the street during the reenactment, some Jewish activists followed closely behind, holding banners with alternating images of Naama’s smiling face and a frame from the kidnapping video. The banners bore a powerful message: “Where are you, feminists? Free the hostages.”

The provocative demonstration was planned and executed by the Female Empowerment and Leadership Group (EIF), a branch of São Paulo’s Jewish Federation (Fisesp). It aimed to raise awareness among women’s rights organizations, including UN Women and the MeToo movement, about the plight of Israeli women subjected to abuse, rape and mutilation at the hands of Hamas terrorists on and after October 7.

Those women’s groups and others around the world were accused at the time of failing to adequately address and condemn the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women. Since then, more groups have called for accountability for those sexual crimes, albeit months after the fact.

Onlookers in São Paulo were shocked that violent sexual assault could be overlooked by groups that ostensibly exist to assist women, and expressed support for raising awareness of such atrocities.

“Double standards in addressing crimes against women are just unacceptable,” said one visibly shaken woman in her 30s.

Actress Alessandra Dayan is pulled through the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in a graphic reenactment of the real-life abduction of Naama Levy by Hamas terrorists, November 30, 2023. (Abner Palma/Fisesp)

The reenactment managed to provoke reactions from an audience typically detached from political issues — one of Fisesp and EIF’s primary goals.

Representing the largest Jewish community in Brazil and one of the largest in Latin America, Fisesp is deeply concerned about recent antisemitic demonstrations led by elements within the country’s radical left. It is troubled by individuals who have in the past been vocal in advocating against abuse and violence toward women, but who now appear to condemn Israel’s military operation while ignoring the documented reports of women suffering sexual abuse and violence at the hands of Hamas on and after October 7.

Deborah Chammah of the Brazilian branch of the NGO StandWithUs voiced concerns about what she termed “selective feminism” and urged inclusive support for all women affected by such violence. “Jewish women’s lives matter too,” she said.

“The world is silent,” lamented Miriam Vasserman, an EIF director. “Feminist organizations have not uttered a single word of support.”

“We cannot afford to remain silent,” said Vasserman. “Every woman can empathize with the young girls whose lives have been torn apart. These distressing incidents are largely documented and filmed for all to see.”

“We refuse to accept this,” she said.

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