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Israeli hostages in Gaza: A man’s campaign to bring his brother home

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Israeli hostages in Gaza: A man’s campaign to bring his brother home



Years ago, Michael Levy was in good spirits after winding down a Passover Seder at his parents’ home in Rishon Lezion. Levy, then 20 years old, shared a mischievous smile with his baby brother Or, then 12, and the two in unison rushed their middle brother who laughingly ran away to hide in one of the bedrooms, and the two brothers gleefully chased him – all three of them giggling along the way. 

Their mother, exhausted after cooking a meal for the whole family, let out a weary chuckle at her boys, who never seemed to grow up when they were around each other.

At one point, while Or and Michael tried to get into the room, they charged against the door so hard that it broke off its hinges. 

“We couldn’t stop laughing that night, we were wild,” Michael Levy said with a faraway smile. “I can’t stop thinking about that random day. When I close my eyes, I can’t forget how happy we were then.

“I’m usually very serious, but when I was with Or, I felt like I could be a little kid again, young and carefree,” he said.

‘EVERYTHING IN life sort of came naturally to Or. Friends gravitated toward him – he had so many and they were close friends from all eras of his life.’ (credit: CHEN SCHIMMEL)

It’s one of the many crystal clear memories of his little brother that Levy keeps replaying in his mind. Or was abducted by Hamas terrorists on the morning of October 7.

OR LEVY was on his way to the Re’im Supernova music festival with his wife, Eynav. They packed up their bags early and left at the crack of dawn. When the young couple showed up at 6:30 a.m., they quickly understood that instead of attending a celebration of music, they had arrived at the gates of hell.

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Terrorists infiltrated the scene, and rapid gunfire obstructed their ability to think clearly. Or attempted to escape the carnage – and for a short while, he did. At 9 a.m., he called his mother and said, “You have no idea what’s happening here. It’s bad.”

That was the last time the family heard from Or. 

Authorities informed them that Or was most likely being held in captivity and that his wife had been murdered.

Their two-year-old son, Almog, is now being taken care of by family members, with the toddler frequently asking when he’ll be able to see his parents again.

“I didn’t even know Or planned to be there that day,” Michael said when he heard the news. 

A campaign to bring home his brother held hostage by Hamas in Gaza

Like most Israelis, Michael was concerned when sirens broke that fateful early morning, but it wasn’t until his mother notified him later that Or was at the music festival that he realized this tragedy was one that very much hit close to home.

For the first few weeks since the attack, Michael has been studiously viewing all the footage of the massacre available to the public, trying to piece together what happened to his brother.

Now he’s moved on to the most important task: bringing Or home.

“My head functions by having certain missions to complete. My first mission was to figure out what happened to him. Now my mission is to bring him back. If I have to turn the world upside down to do so – so be it,” Michael said. 

As such, he flew to New York to visit officials and members of the local Jewish community to tell Or’s story – one of the some 230 stories of the tragedy that has befallen men, women, children, and infants snatched from their loved ones, whose fate is as yet unknown.

In New York, he communicated a specific message to whomever he met.

“This isn’t about a war, or politics, or Jew vs Arab,” he said. “This is about good vs evil. Darkness vs light. This is not an Israel problem. Today it’s us. Tomorrow it’s them. It’ll be London, Paris, and New York. If you let terrorism win, it will be at your doorstep.”

THE TWO brothers, although they love each other very much, were not very close as adults due to life with its daily obligations often preventing them from meeting or catching up properly.

“We would talk every other week,” Michael said. “We were busy, you know? Life gets in the way. We would speak on the phone, here and there. I wish I had more time with him,” he said regretfully.

Even though Or was the little brother, Michael was always in awe of his abilities. 

“Everything in life sort of came naturally to Or,” he said. “Friends gravitated toward him – he had so many, and they were close friends from all eras of his life.

“He was interested in everything. Even as a kid, he loved to break something only so he could figure out how to put it back together again.”

Naturally, then, Or, who never enrolled in higher education, was a self-taught computer programmer.

When the CEO of the start-up he worked for attended Eynav’s funeral, he approached Michael’s father and said, “‘Or was the best programmer I ever had,’” Michael recalled.

“‘How is that possible?’ my father asked, ‘since Or never went to school for computer programming,’” he said. “The CEO just nodded and said he stood by his statement. That’s really a testament to how smart, dedicated, and well-liked my brother is.”

Noticing the tenses used when Michael told this story, this reporter asked him if it was hurtful for him when people spoke about his brother in the past tense.

“I do it sometimes, too,” he said, shaking his head. “But I have to believe he’s still with us. That he’ll come through that door any minute now. That we’ll see a basketball game together abroad like we always talked about. That my mother will cook his favorite dish, that she’s been planning to make for weeks.”

“What would you say to Or if he were to walk into your home right now?” I asked.

With a smile, Michael responded, “I’ll hit him for everything he put us through.

“But if I could speak to him now, I’d tell him to be strong. We’re coming for you. I promised my parents he’s coming home,” he said resolutely.

Yet even under the levity, the pain and anguish of the past month have taken a toll on the eldest Levy brother, who is carrying the weight of the family’s hopes and fears on his shoulders.

“I feel like I’m living somebody else’s life. I don’t even recognize myself. Everybody who sees me now speaking to the media is surprised because I’m not a very outgoing person,” he said. “I’m certainly not one to talk about my personal life in the press. 

“But this – this is important. I have to rise to the occasion because our goal is for Or to come home.” 





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Watch: IDF, security forces arrest explosive-wielding terrorists in intense West Bank operation

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Watch: IDF, security forces arrest explosive-wielding terrorists in intense West Bank operation



The IDF, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), and Border Police operated throughout Saturday evening and arrested eight wanted individuals in the West Bank, the IDF announced Sunday. 

Soldiers shot at a terrorist who threw an explosive device at them in Nablus, and interrogated suspects, finding weapons. 

In the village of Rujeib, near Nablus, soldiers arrested a wanted man and confiscated a gun and other weapons. 

During these operations, soldiers surrounded a building and arrested an additional two wanted persons, and confiscated weapons and destroyed an explosive device found in the area. 

Israeli forces arrest suspects implicated in terror activities 

In Beit Rima and Kafr Nima, near Ramallah, soldiers arrested two suspects implicated in terrorist activities. 

IDF soldiers operate in the West Bank overnight, June 16, 2024. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

In al-Khader, two wanted men were arrested, and in Idna, soldiers arrested another wanted man. 

The wanted persons who were arrested had their weapons confiscated and were transferred to security forces for further investigation. 

Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, approximately 4,150 wanted persons have been arrested throughout the West Bank, and approximately 1,750 are associated with terror organization Hamas. 





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US officials worry Israel will drag America into war against Hezbollah – CBS

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US officials worry Israel will drag America into war against Hezbollah – CBS



The Biden administration has become increasingly concerned that the increasing conflict and rocket exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah could expand through the region, anonymous US officials told CBS News on Friday.

An official said that the administration had been working toward lowering the risk that US troops face in Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. 

Additionally, diplomatic advisor Amos Hochstein is heading to Israel on Monday with the reported purpose of trying to de-escalate tensions before they spread throughout the region.

IAF strikes deeper into Lebanon

Some of the US officials told CBS that they interpreted the deepening IDF strikes in Lebanese territory as a preparatory measure for a sweeping assault. This, the officials worry, could start a war with Lebanon that Israel would require US support to win.  

Other officials told CBS they were concerned that, in response to the deepening strikes, Hezbollah would escalate attacks, resulting in an unintended war.

Smoke is seen following rockets that were fired towards Israel from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, June 1, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon)

The rocket exchanges on the northern border are also creating new barriers in pushing for a hostage-ceasefire deal, the CBS report added.

A senior Biden administration official said, “The most important thing about the hostage release and ceasefire deal that’s on the table now is that if it’s achieved, it can have an impact in the north [of Israel], so that is an opportunity for us to be able to bring this conflict to a full close.”

“There has to be an agreement that allows Israelis to return to their homes in the North with security guarantees that it is not Oct. 6 of Hezbollah … sitting right on the blue line,” the official added.

Inflaming tensions 

After senior Hezbollah official Sami Taleb Abdullah was eliminated in a strike, Hezbollah increased its rocket attacks against Israel. Approximately 250 rockets were launched on Wednesday towards northern Israel, disrupting civilians trying to partake in the holiday of Shavuot. 

Abdullah is the most senior member of Hezbollah to be eliminated since October 7.

“The powerful elimination worries Hezbollah members. They now understand that the IDF knows much more about them than we do. Additionally, the operation indicates that Hezbollah’s field security is not airtight and that the organization’s intelligence system has been penetrated to such an extent that we were able to eliminate such an important sector commander. The IDF managed to infiltrate their networks and systems and identify the right people for elimination,” said Professor Amatzia Baram, suggesting that this also impacts the leader of the terrorist organization.





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Israel must target civilian infrastructure in Lebanon to pressure Hezbollah, IDSF head says

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Israel must target civilian infrastructure in Lebanon to pressure Hezbollah, IDSF head says



Israel Defense and Security Forum CEO Lt. Col. (res.) Yaron Buskila spoke recently with Yoav Minitz on Radio North 104.5FM and referred to the future of the conflict with the terrorist organization Hezbollah on the northern border.

Buskila stated, “The North is facing the issue of UAVs, which seems like a kind of Russian roulette. How can the security system deal with this.

“To explain why occasionally there are no sirens, Hezbollah learned to operate with UAVs at a low altitude close to the ground. Because of this, the UAV is not identified, and Hezbollah manages to operate them and attack before the Israeli detection and identification system operates. This has become a challenge for us, but we continue to face Hezbollah as we have in recent years in a symmetrical manner. For every attack they launch at us, we retaliate proportionally.

“This is not how to deal with a terror organization, certainly not at this stage. Hezbollah understands that we are in negotiations over the hostages, and they want to pressure the State of Israel. We must not play into their hands. This is exactly the time to take action against Hezbollah and Lebanon as a country and attack civilian infrastructures. Hezbollah is also subject to social and public pressure within Lebanon.”

Which infrastructures and targets are worth it for Israel to attack? 

“If we do not know how to attack such civilian infrastructures that the Lebanese society will put pressure on Hezbollah, we will not come out of this. We needed to escalate matters long ago. The economic interest they had with the gas agreement needs to be canceled immediately and transferred to our hands as one of the first steps in response to Hezbollah’s activities. The economy in Lebanon is so fragile that the last thing they need is escalation and entry into a war from Israel, which will destroy the Lebanese economy.

A Hezbollah flag flutters in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam, near the border with Israel, Lebanon July 28, 2020 (credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)

Buskila continued, “We are at war. Any target within Lebanon that causes pressure on Lebanese society is legitimate. It could be an airport, energy areas, and others. These are part of the steps taken in war, and we are at war. We are in a fateful year that will determine the future of the State of Israel in terms of security in the next 50 years. The sharper this war becomes and the more significant the achievements, the more peace we will acquire in the coming years.”

“The State of Israel and the security system are afraid to carry out attacks for fear that Hezbollah may achieve long-range targets, farther than Haifa and Hadera. As Ofer Shelah wrote in his book, The Courage to Win, even winning requires courage. It also requires the ability to absorb, but ultimately, whoever has endurance and ability and knows his right is the one who wins.”





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