Naama Barak
March 25, Updated March 26

A researcher who has established an organization documenting Hamas’ gender-based crimes on the October 7 attack is set to receive the prestigious Israel Prize in the field of solidarity this year.

Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy, a Sophie Davis Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute Program on Gender, Conflict Resolution and Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, set up the Civil Commission on October 7th Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children: an independent, civil organization bent on collecting the vast scope of testimonies of the gender-based crimes committed in the massacre.

The purpose of this testimonial project, which bases itself on evidence from images, videos, personal testimonials and press sources, is to aid victims and their families learn more about what happened that day. Further down the line, there are plans to turn the testimonial project into an archive at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“It is with great privilege that we work to raise awareness and give voice to the silenced victims and families whose lives were shattered by the October 7 atrocities,” Elkayam-Levy says. “I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to advocate for the rights of women, children, and families worldwide. We must stand firm against the stark denial and the increasing tide of anti-Semitism.”

“I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the numerous individuals who have tirelessly dedicated themselves to this vital cause alongside me. This privilege is both an honor and a responsibility that I hold with utmost dedication.” 

Since war broke out, Elkayam-Levy has found herself advocating for international recognition of the atrocities that occurred, meeting with world leaders, experts and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

She’s also been extensively interviewed by Israeli and international media, where she’s highlighted the systemic sexual violence carried out by Hamas against Israeli women and the grave breaches of international law that had occurred. 

The Israel Prize is the country’s highest cultural honor and is awarded annually on Independence Day. Usually, it is awarded in four categories – sciences; Jewish studies, humanities and social science; culture, arts and sports; as well as lifetime achievement.

The bestowal of the Israel Prize is not devoid of political storms. This year, the education minister initially wished to award the prize only in the fields of solidarity and civic heroism, citing the ongoing war. The Israeli press, meanwhile, reported that the decision also had to do with the political leanings of one of the designated winners and his criticism of the government. The minister has since retracted his decision, and the awards are set to be bestowed as usual.

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