The actress is shown a clip of Evyatar David being dragged along a dusty street by a terrorist jubilantly holding aloft an AK-47. In another sequence, 23-year-old Evyatar lies in the back of a truck, his hands cuffed behind him. He is punched and slapped.
What torments his 18-year-old sister Yeela most, though, is the abject terror registering across his face. She says that her mother cannot bring herself to watch the film.
‘Of course, I understand,’ says Rona-Lee, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye and hugging Yeela.
Afterwards she says: ‘I feel like we need to listen to this every single day. We need to keep remembering, we need to not let this go. We should try to avoid numbing ourselves from the trauma.’
Actress Rona-Lee Shimon, 41, wiped away a tear after hearing harrowing accounts of the kidnappings of two young men at the Supernova Festival
Rona-Lee, 41, has made waves as the only female star of the critically acclaimed Netflix series Fauda, which details the activities of IDF agents tracking Hamas militants
The Fauda star sat with Yeela as the girl revealed what she knew of her brother Evyatar’s abduction on October 7 last year
Shimon was the shown the clip of Evyatar’s abduction from the Supernova festival
The actress is shown a clip of Evyatar David being dragged along a dusty street by a terrorist jubilantly holding aloft an AK-47
In another sequence, 23-year-old Evyatar lies in the back of a truck, his hands cuffed behind him. He is punched and slapped
What torments Evyatar’s 18-year-old sister Yeela most, though, is the abject terror registering across his face. She says that her mother cannot bring herself to watch the film
On one side of Rona-Lee sits Yeela. On the left, sits Shelly Shem Tov, whose son Omer, like Evyatar, was snatched from the Supernova music festival near the Gaza border
Shimon (pictured with Yeela) said: ‘Fauda is not real – and we’re living the most horrific reality that the human mind could ever imagine’
Rona-Lee Shimon (right) met with 18-year-old Yeela and heard the girl’s harrowing story of her brother’s kidnap by Hamas on October 7
Rona-Lee Shimon meets with Shelly Shem Tov (left), mother of Omer, 21, and Yeela David (right), 18, sister of Evyatar David, 23, both of whom were kidnapped at the Supernova festival, at the campaign offices of Bring Them Home movement in Tel Aviv
In the critically-adored Fauda – the word means chaos in Arabic – Rona-Lee, 41, plays Nurit, the only woman in a team of undercover operatives hunting Palestinian terrorists across the West Bank. Anyone who has seen it would expect the redoubtable Nurit, upon hearing Yeela’s story, to slip into her disguise, grab her Glock 17 pistol and rescue Evyatar herself.
But as Rona-Lee reminds us: ‘Fauda is not real – and we’re living the most horrific reality that the human mind could ever imagine.’
In real life she is a different kind of brave: she is prepared to use her fame and eloquence to stand up for Israel, whatever the cost to herself – and is scathing of those in the West who choose not to do so, who conveniently sidestep the rape and torture and murder and kidnappings on October 7.
To her it is unthinkable that some politicians and public figures – including some in Britain – cannot bring themselves to condemn what happened that day.
Because it is Israel? ‘I feel like there’s a little girl inside me that wants to stay innocent and say, ‘There’s no way that it’s because it’s Israel’. But it is.’
We are in the offices of the Bring Them Home Now campaign group which supports families of those kidnapped. On one side of her sits Yeela. On the other, Shelly Shem Tov, whose son Omer, like Evyatar, was snatched from the Supernova music festival near the Gaza border.
Rona Lee says: ‘It makes me sad that I even have to try to defend the quest to bring them [the hostages] home. The international community failed miserably doing its basic job and saying out loud very clearly what can and cannot be done nowadays.’
Her hurt and anger is self-evident. Never more so than when she talks of women being raped by Hamas terrorists – both on October 7 and later.
Video testimony of an eyewitness at the Nova music festival detailed the gang rape, mutilation and execution of one victim.
Other witnesses said terrorists treated women like ‘dolls on a string with which you can do whatever you want’.
Rona-Lee says she is angry ‘on a very deep level’ at the failure of some organisations to respond immediately to the reports. She is particularly critical of United Nations Women organisation.
‘UN Women came out with a statement two whole months after October 7, and it felt at best as if it was a check out of a to do list. It was a watered down statement that showed cowardice in my opinion, and it made me feel ashamed as a human and as a woman and as a Jew. And it was spineless and shameful. And I feel like it revealed this awful truth – that we as a society, and as women, can no longer trust an organisation that was supposed to be non-biased…that was supposed to be the gatekeeper against moral injustice towards women, all women. And it wasn’t.’
She says it is ‘very scary that women can be sexually abused as weapons of war without the international community not immediately punishing those responsible. I think it broke a very basic human trust. If we lose track of what is human and what is not human in the world…then it means we’re in a very bad place.’
In the critically-adored Fauda – the word means chaos in Arabic – Rona-Lee, 41, plays Nurit (left), the only woman in a team of undercover operatives hunting Palestinian terrorists across the West Bank (Pictured: Shimon with co-stars, from left to right, Idan Amedi, Lior Raz and Firas Nasser)
Rona-Lee (right) the critically acclaimed Netflix series Fauda, which explores the Israeli-Palestine conflict (Pictured with co-star Doron Ben-David)
Rona Lee-Shimon, alongside co-star Idan Amedi in Netflix hit Fauda. Amedi himself was recently injured while fighting Gaza
Shimon (second left) with Fauda co-stars. The thriller was first shown in Israel in 2010 and was picked up by Netflix six years later and became an international hit
Shimon (centre) as Nurit in Netflix series Fauda, with co-stars Doron Ben-David (left) and Idan Amedi (right)
Fauda is dramatically prescient in its depiction of the carnage in the Middle East. The finale of the action thriller’s third season involved the kidnapping of two Israeli boys who are taken to Gaza. The thriller was first shown in Israel in 2010 and was picked up by Netflix six years later and became an international hit.
Morally complicated, it offers a nuanced depiction of the Palestinians targeted by the elite military unit.
In the fourth series – in which Rona-Lee’s character is pregnant – producers turned down a plotline about a cross-border attack by Hamas as too improbable.
Of the parallels, Rona-Lee says: ‘It’s surreal, where you think about it. Who could have imagined that this would happen. Reality is so much harder and more difficult to grasp than what I do for my job, for my art.’
To her credit she finds it ‘inappropriate at this time’ to be dwelling too much on her Fauda role. ‘Fauda is just a little story about our country. We have been dealing with this conflict for so many years but this is something completely different. It is unbearable to live this reality.’
One of the first messages she sent on the day of the Hamas invasion, as she tried to make sense of what was happening, was to the show’s creator.
Some weeks later she met up with her Fauda co-stars who are as close in real life as they are on screen. As they discussed what happened, Rona-Lee recalls noting the ‘shock on everyone’s faces’.
Some of the actors and crew joined up and are fighting in Gaza, most notably Rona-Lee’s on-screen husband Idan Amedi who plays Sagi, a fellow operative. In January Idan was seriously injured in a bomb blast and spent several weeks in hospital. ‘I was burned to the point that no one recognised me,’ he said at the time.
Rona-Lee says ‘he fought like a lion’ for his country and is now ‘healing’. She worries too about her brother, a reservist fighting in Gaza. Having missed national service because her ballet career took her abroad, it was her brother who taught her how to fire a gun when she auditioned for Fauda.
It was to ballet that she returned as a form of therapy when the horrors of the October 7 attack proved too much. She is quick to put the pain of others above her own but she says she ‘felt like I was sinking into a very deep depression. It felt like it was a few steps in and soon I won’t be able to come out of it. So I started going to the gym and returned to doing ballet classes. And it saved my life. Exercise saved my life.’
For two and half months she couldn’t face work – ‘it didn’t feel right to be on stage’. Now she is appearing in a play in Tel Aviv.
Recalling the day of the attacks she says she was at home in Haifa when she awoke to ‘weird messages’ from her mother. ‘I turned on the TV and looked with horror at the news.’ She admits feeling terrified.
‘And then I realised they were talking about people being kidnapped to Gaza. It was like a bomb hitting my head. It was something that I couldn’t believe was true. I still can’t believe it’s true.’
Sometimes she visits the hostages families who gather in the square nearby. ‘I feel like it’s important for us to show that we care, that I’m there in the fight with them. And I go there and I just give them a hug. I’m sure I’m not necessarily the person who they would want to talk to…but I feel it’s important to be there and to say, ‘I’m with you. You’re not alone in this fight.’
She adds: ‘The fact that there are still men, women and children held in captivity is unfathomable.’
Beside her, Shelly begins telling her story. She talks of how the relatives of the hostages have become a family, how only they understand the pain.
‘I will tell you something,’ says Shelly. ‘You know where your son or daughter is – where they are sleeping tonight. You can call them. But my son went to a festival and didn’t come back. He is now in the hands of terrorists. People went to this festival for love, to spread peace
‘My son left his room in a mess, clothes on the floor and he left the light on. Typical boy. After he was kidnapped I said to myself that I won’t clear up his room until he comes back so it is still as he left it. The light has been on since October 7. Every morning I wake up and go to his room and tell him the date. And today it has been 124 days since you slept in your bed, and I’m telling him that he must be strong. Every day I tell him that and I pray in his room asking God to help me to help him.’
To Rona-Lee the stories are almost unbearable. ‘But we need to keep telling them – screaming them,’ she says. ‘There have been a lot of controversies regarding the situation in the country. But the minute that this happened, everything got put aside and we all came together to fight this together.
‘And I feel that’s our strength as a as people and I also feel like we’ve been accustomed to it and we’ve been mentally trained for this for 70 years. So I feel we as a country have this something within us that knows just to come together in time of need and be there for each other.
‘If the world gets numb to innocent people – children, babies, mothers, parents, elderly Holocaust survivors – getting taken from their beds – and getting tortured, slaughtered and kidnapped to Gaza – then it shows moral decay. And I feel that should be earth shattering and alarming to every human in their right mind.’