Ellen Ginsberg Simon
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On International Women’s Day, where are they?

For a moment, I try to conjure the experiences of each woman held captive by Hamas – and hope they know we have not forgotten them
Karina Ariev, Shiri Bibas, Daniella Gilboa, Emily Damari, Carmel Gat, Romi Gonen, Liri Albag, Naama Levy, Eden Yerushalmi, Amit Buskila, Noa Argamani, Arbel Yehud, Agam Berger, Doron Steinbrecher. (courtesy)
Karina Ariev, Shiri Bibas, Daniella Gilboa, Emily Damari, Carmel Gat, Romi Gonen, Liri Albag, Naama Levy, Eden Yerushalmi, Amit Buskila, Noa Argamani, Arbel Yehud, Agam Berger, Doron Steinbrecher. (courtesy)

Where are you?

Where are you, Naama? Are you cold? Are you hungry? Are you alone? Have your ankles healed? Do you limp? Did anyone give you clean clothes, or are you still wearing stained sweatpants, sitting on a cold floor in a pitch-black tunnel under the earth?

Are you pregnant?

Where are you, Romi? Where were you shot? Have your gunshot wounds been treated? Do you have an infection? Do you have pain medication? Can you walk? Can you stand? Have they killed that beautiful, bright smile?

Where are you, Noa? Are you with Hamas? Civilian kidnappers? In an UNRWA attic? Where is your boyfriend, Avinatan? Have you seen him? Do you know that the world has cried with your father? That we have seen your mother’s plea to see you one more time? That the image of you on the back of a motorcycle, reaching for Avinatan, begging for your life, has become etched in our minds as iconic of the worst day in Israeli history?

Where are you, Arbel? Are you with your brother? Have you seen him? Have they touched you? Have they beaten you? Have they fed you? Have they told you that no one cares about finding you? Have they told you that your kibbutz — your family’s home for three generations — is no more and that you have no home to return to? Have they filled your head with poisonous lies and stolen your hope?

Where are you, Agam? Are you still in your pajamas? Do you dream about playing the violin? Do you dream at all anymore? Do you talk to your twin in your sleep? How many times have they violated you? Do you keep track of it, or shut it out to maintain your sanity? Where does your mind go each time? Do you play sonatas silently in your mind to keep from going mad, your fingers sliding along invisible frets as your imaginary bow sings, screams for freedom!

Where are you, Emily? Do you have a pencil and paper? Can you write down your pain, or must you etch it into your heart? Will your memories be etched in scars? Do you have a friend or a companion to whom you can voice your pain?

Where are you, Karina? Have your wounds from October 7th healed? Are you in agony? Have they given you fresh wounds? Physical wounds? Emotional wounds? Will any of these wounds ever heal? You have been called a helper. Are you mothering the other hostages, caring for them with your big heart, while the monsters slowly butcher your own?

Where are you, Eden? Are you held alone or with other women? Are you allowed to speak, or do they threaten you if you open your mouth to communicate? Did they brand you as they did so many others? Have you been sold from one faction to another like an object, a dog, a slave?

Where are you, Amit? Do you flashback to the Nova festival in your nightmares? How many of your friends were there? Do you have any idea what happened to them? Does the worry consume you? Before you were captured, did you see your friends raped? Shot? Stabbed?And what have they done to you? Over the past five months, what on earth have they done to you?

Where are you, Daniella? Are you still with your friends? Have you been separated? Do you dream of home? Your boyfriend? Your mother? Your bed? A fresh falafel on the streets of Tel Aviv, hot in your hands, your mouth drooling at the thought of your first bite?

Where are you, Carmel? Did you despair when your sister-in-law, Yarden, was released and you remained captive? Do you know that your family is traveling the world lobbying on your behalf? I met them in Washington, DC. They love you. They have not forgotten you. Do you know this? Can you feel this? Or do you feel left behind, forgotten, abandoned, lost?

Where are you, Doron? Do you crave the warmth of a wet dog kiss or cat nose bump at your veterinary clinic? Have you seen the sun since that dark, October day? Can you distinguish between nights and days? Do you know how long it has been? Are your muscles atrophied from lack of exercise and use? Have you acclimated to living like a mole, blindly existing, free from light, liberty, love?

Where are you, Liri? What thoughts fill your days? Do you think of your friends? Your family? The life you have only just begun to live? Do you feel as if your future has been ripped from your arms? How many times have they hurt you? Do they hit you when they do it? Do you close your eyes and retreat to a mental oasis? Will you still see the world as beautiful when you come home?

Where are you, Shiri? Where are your babies? What mother has not thought of you every day? How have you fed Ariel and Kfir? How have you clothed them? Diapered them? Kept them quiet when the monsters demanded quiet? Kept them happy when they cried for their father? For their home? For a toy? For sunshine? For life? For no reason other than the fact that they are babies? Are you alone with them? Are any of you still alive?

Where are you?

Wherever you are on this International Women’s Day, Friday, March 8, 2024, as foreign dignitaries spout platitudes, smile for cameras, and stroke one another’s egos, while you sit in silence and fear in the dark, please know that we have not forgotten you.

We will find where you are.

We will bring you home.

About the Author
Ellen Ginsberg Simon is an attorney and compliance professional. She has an M.Phil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies from Oxford University and is also a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School.
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