One of Israel’s most recognisable and indefatigable public defenders is encouraging Jewish parents to get their children involved in debating and believes Israel will emerge “stronger than ever” from its current trauma.
Eylon Levy, 32, grew up in Finchley and attended University College School before studying at Cambridge and Oxford, where he became a campus reporter for the JC.
He is in London next week and will appear at the Stand With Israel rally in the city centre on Sunday 14 January at 2:30pm (for details, visit 710humanchain.com/Israel).
Possessing an “argumentative spirit” and a keen interest in international affairs and politics, Levy says it “only made sense” that he would come to the Jewish State’s defence after it came under attack.
After making aliyah at the age of 23 and serving in the IDF on the West Bank, he became a television news anchor in the country for five years and later an international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog.
On the day of the October 7 massacre, Levy says he was not employed by the government and simply a “private, albeit passionate citizen”.
He said: “As the massacre unfolded, Israeli society did something extraordinary. Everyone dropped everything to help the war effort. People who had nothing more than a car volunteered to drive food down to soldiers, or cook for displaced families, and what I knew how to do is to give interviews and to speak for Israel, so that’s what I did.”
He soon found himself invited to the Prime Minister’s Office as part of the country’s Israel advocacy efforts and was asked to speak in an official capacity.
He says the most challenging aspect of the role is remaining “totally on top” of every development, which can prove “physically exhausting”.
Eylon Levy, Israeli government spokesperson, speaks to members of the media about the extended truce, humanitarian aid, and the release of hostages during his daily briefing in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 28, 2023 (Credit: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
“Defending Israel is like playing a game of whack-a-mole,” Levy said, “because we are coming under constant bombardment of lies and misleading reports, bias statements from all sorts of officials, and you never know what you’re going to be asked about or what you need to have the right answer for.
“So, the role demands being completely on the ball all the time. It’s a game of stamina as well. There were days at the start of the war where I was doing upwards of ten interviews a day, on top of filming stuff for social media and press conferences. And in all of that still trying not just to wing it but to find the most effective ways to present our case based upon professional advice.”
Levy is adamant that the best training he could have had for the role was eight years on the annual university debating circuit, which took him to championships around the world, an avenue he is keen for others to follow.
“Debating is a hobby that teaches you to think critically and to think on your feet, to not shy away. That ability to whack down any criticism even if they come from left field, to know how to demonstrate your case clearly and eloquently and assertively is absolutely critical, and I would recommend any parent reading now to get your child involved in debate.
“If they have a strong emotional attachment to the Jewish community and Israel, the best thing you can do for them is to help them think critically, under pressure and under fire.”
The biggest obstacle to peace in the ongoing Hamas war, Levy says, is the Palestinian national movement remaining “committed to the vision of from the river to the sea, which is a vision people on the streets of Western capitals are indulging with their chants and cries for ‘intifada, intifada’. The Palestinian leadership has prioritised resisting Israel in any borders as opposed to building their own.”
On Sunday Levy visited the Gaza terror tunnels, one of which he described as “wide as a Tube train”.
He said: “I was in a massive strategic tunnel that ends just 400 metres from the [Israeli] border and stretches 4km into the Gaza Strip. That tunnel is as long as the stretch of the Northern line from Camden Town to Waterloo. Gaza had resources; the problem was their priorities.
“The Palestinians showed themselves very capable of putting their minds towards some very serious and impressive building projects, but they decided to instead prioritise terror and to pour all the concrete that should have gone into peoples’ homes into the tunnels connecting to their homes.”
Despite being subject to “endless” abuse on social media as one of Israel’s leading English-speaking faces, Levy remains undeterred.
“This is not a war we started, it’s not a war we wanted, or one we expected, this is a war Hamas declared against us with the bloodiest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Nobody wants this war to end more than us, but end it we must to ensure that Hamas can never hurt our people again.
“This massacre followed a very difficult period of polarisation in Israel. And I hope and really believe that when this war is over, Israeli society is going to be stronger and more resilient than ever, with different communities remembering how much they needed each other and how much they were there for each other in our darkest hour. Our darkest hour will also produce our greatest hour.”