Shari Mendes, a female reservist in the IDF rabbinate who helped identify women's bodies in the Shura camp, continues to expose to the world the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists in the October 7 massacre, as she herself has seen.
Warning: The article contains descriptions that are difficult to read, and are not recommended for everyone. This article will revolve around the hundreds of bodies that were piled on top of each other, their desecration to the point that it was difficult to properly prepare them for burial, the systematic way in which Hamas struck without hesitation or mercy, anyone in its path, and the booby-trapped bodies that arrived in the camp where the work to identify the dead was underway.
"The halls were lined to the ceiling with body bags, the smell was unimaginable. I can't tell you the shock and despair that struck all of us," Mendes said in an interview on Sky News.
Some of the women's bodies, she says, were barely clothed, some with underwear soaked in blood. Mendes says her team wasn't ready for the things they saw. "Women were shot many times in the face... Their mouths were in grimaces, their eyes were open, their fists were clenched"
"Our team saw women shot in the crotch, in the genitals. Women were shot in the breast... Our team saw this," she said. There are still those who doubt that Hamas used sexual violence on October 7, claiming Muslim men do not rape or sexually assault women, as it goes against Islam. In other testimonies heard since the massacre, people who took care of the victims, especially at the "Nova" music festival, testified that rape was used extensively by the terrorists.
Mendes described the challenges of preparing bodies for burial after they had been dismembered and abused. "One woman had her arm and her leg broken in so many places it was like handling marbles or sand, and at a certain point we said we would just put a white sheet on top of her." She further added that there were also cases when her body arrived "booby-trapped", and the volunteers had to evacuate the place as a result.
"It may take time for these women to speak out, if they ever do."
Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten who is in Israel to prepare a report for the UN, called on the victims to "come forward, break the silence." She received a mandate from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to collect evidence and information on sexual violence committed by Hamas in the massacre on October 7.
Mendes referred to the envoy's call for victims of sexual offenses to break their silence, and said that they are afraid that they will not be believed. "If these women are being doubted about the veracity of their claims, why should they come forward? I think we have to be patient: they're very traumatized. It may take time for these women to speak out, if they ever do. It re-victimizes the victim to not believe them."
Patten's visit comes after significant criticism of the international women's organizations and their apparent silence in the wake of the atrocities. "I had two meetings with the families of the abducted in New York, and I am here to show my solidarity with Israel," she said. Patten spoke during her meeting with President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal, as well as with a group of leading women from civil society and academia who focus on combating gender-based violence and advocating for women's rights.