Sadder than anything you can think of.
That’s how sad Michael Levy looks, when he tries to marshal a smile. It’s been a long day for him, telling his story to Canadians and Americans and anyone who will listen. He’s tired, but he can’t, won’t, stop.
The story he has to tell is deeply, irredeemably sad. And, as you look at his face – young, but unshaven; dark-eyed, but with eyes that have seen terrible days – you wonder how he goes on. But he does.
For his brother, his sister-in-law. His nephew, most of all.
He’s asked to tell the story. He starts.
“My little brother, Or, and his wife, Eynav, decided to take a short break from their day to day routine. They have a two year old son and very demanding jobs, you see, so they left their son alone with the grandparents and headed North,” he says. He pauses.
“They got to the festival at 6:20 a.m., ten minutes before Hell started. They ran into a bomb shelter not very far from the festival area. They thought they were safe. A few minutes after, a group of Hamas terrorists arrived and started throwing grenades and spraying bullets. They killed Eynav and 17 other people. My brother had to watch his wife being murdered, before he was kidnapped into Gaza.”
They were at Israel’s Supernova music festival on October 7, 2023, which was one of the worst places on Earth to be, on that bright Saturday morning. So Eynav, just 32 years old, was killed there. And Or was taken away. And no one has heard from him since.
Michael Levy, then, is on a mission: he is travelling the globe, talking to whomever who listen. Six delegations in two months. Telling the story of his brother and his brother’s family. Telling the story of the men, women, children and babies who were stolen by Hamas that Saturday morning.
When he talks about his brother, he brightens. He talks the way brothers talk about brothers.
“He is an annoying genius,” he says, almost laughing, a bit. “For me, as his older brother, it was almost hard for me to see how easily things came to him. He became a senior programmer for a successful startup. And he was always happy, always surrounded by friends, always smiling.”
He pauses again, remembering. “In terms of his family, Eynav and his son, Almog, were his whole life. They met 15 years ago. First they were great friends – and it was only after 7 or 8 years that they became a couple. Ever since, they have never been apart. They got married five years ago and their amazing son, he was born almost two and a half years ago. He was their whole life.”
They loved music. They’d go festivals, and they’d keep camping gear in their car for quick get-aways. When you look at them in photos, it’s like Michael Levy says – they were smiling all the time. They were happy. “They were soulmates,” Michael says. He looks away, to the corner of the hotel room. He doesn’t cry, but the writer who has asked to meet certainly feels like doing that.
He is asked about their son. It is an obvious question, but it has to be asked: “Is their son living with you and your family now?”
Michael Levy shakes his head. “He is moving between the grandparents. We all try to help, show him love, give him support. But obviously, nothing will be the same without his mother and father.”
“I understand that he asks where they are. What are you telling him?”
Michael Levy looks irredeemably sad, now. “I guess that is the toughest part. We had to tell him that his mother won’t come back. His father, we told him we are looking for his father.” He thinks. “The psychologist actually told us that we can show him videos of Or, but we cannot show him his mother. On videos, you see, she looks alive. As sad as it is, we cannot show him videos of her. That is heartbreaking.”
Meeting the other hostage families has helped him and his own family, Levy says. They all understand what they are going through. They all know what each other is thinking. Says he: “We became family in a second. Some of them actually are like my brothers. We talk every day, we get each other – only by looking at each other. We don’t even have to talk. I can understand what Hell they are going through. And they can understand what I am going through.”
The question that is hanging in the air, looming like a shadow, is whether Michael Levy thinks he will ever see his brother again. Everyone who has met a hostage family member – and this writer has now met a few – wonders that. But I still can’t ask it.
So, instead, I ask Michael Levy what he wants the world to know. What does he want to leave them with?
“The main reason why I do what I do, and why I go to those delegations almost every week ,is to tell their story. To make people understand that this is not about politics, this is not about Israel against Palestinians, this is about human beings – civilians, innocent civilians, whose only crime was that they wanted to sleep in their own beds or go to celebrate a music festival and were brutally murdered or kidnapped.”
The final pause, then he goes on. “And those people have families, they have kids and they have brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. People tend to forget that. They look at them as a number or a name. They’re not. They are people with families and with hopes and dreams – and I think that the world should understand that this is what is important. This and nothing else.
“We can deal with politics after, but first we need to get my brother back, and get all of the other families’ loved ones back. Then we can talk politics.”