‘I Wonder What Her Name Is’

Naomi Ruth Henoch –

It’s a leap year. It’s a leap day. It’s one extra day for the hostages to remain in captivity. One extra day for Ayelet to wonder if her daughter Naama is alive. If Naama is pregnant, or broken, or alive, or dead, and what is worse?

It’s her face I remember, when I remember anything. I didn’t see it first – first I saw the blue blue sky. My father banged on our door; we hadn’t woken from the sirens. We sat in a stairwell, bleary eyed – and then went back to bed.

Should we check the news?

Love, just go back to sleep. It was probably nothing.

I did. My husband didn’t.

When the second siren woke us, he showed me his phone.

He showed me the news.

I opened up my own phone.

I saw Shani’s corpse, a hand tangled in her hair (my husband’s hand in my hair, holding me as we scrolled). I saw Noa, on the back of a motorcycle (my husband and I fell in love on the back of a motorcycle) screaming for her life.

I saw Naama’s face.

Well, I saw Naama’s back. I had to watch the video once, twice. A dozen times, to see her face.

Did I know her? Who was she? Were those her gray sweatpants, or had they stripped her, raped her, given her new clothing, and raped her again? I noticed the blood on her feet. I noticed the blood on her arms. I noticed the blood on her backside. I noticed the hand, dragging her out of the truck, dragging her by her hair. Shoving her into the backseat. Her face there, only for a moment. Shock – and blood – and shock. And a bright blue sky in the corner, a beautiful day in Gaza.

I walked from my father’s apartment to my brother’s – a thirty-five minute walk, through the empty, empty streets of Tel Aviv. There were no hostage posters up yet (of course, we could not hang them for we did not know they were there, yet) and yet now, in my memory, I can only see that path with their faces, their names, the Bring Them Home in red. It is on every construction site and scaffolding and storefront. That day it wasn’t. It was just silent.

I collect my little brother. He is twenty-five. He has been out of the army for two and a half years. He needs help packing his backpack to go up north.

Did you see? Did you see the video?

Which one?

For me, there is only one. There are a dozen, there are too many – and there is only one. When I think of her, my own self wants to bleed. When I think of her, I cannot think.

I walk my brother to say goodbye to our mother.

There were kids down south at a music festival. They killed 200 of them.

No way. No way. Why would they have been there? 200? It must not be true. You can’t believe everything you read.

But you can believe what you see. I see her. I cannot walk for a moment, wondering how her hips feel. I know how her hips must feel, the way one in three women know, the way the body can betray and protect and betray you again. (Later, I will think this: how a country can betray and protect and betray and protect you again, all in one year, breath, day, life).

When I close my eyes, I see my bedroom wall, and the shape above me that will not move. I see sweatpants and blood. When I open them – the sky is blue. My brother is in uniform, saying goodbye to our parents. I drive him in the evening to a bus station, and wait outside until he tells me he is on board, he is on his way.

I wonder what that girl’s name is.

(Naama, Naama,

If she has a brother – if he is on his way.

it’s the same root as Naomi, my hips are her hips and my name is her name)

I closed the car door. I opened my phone, and called my commander – and told her I was ready to come down, and put my eyes to better use.

From a Writing on the Wall Workshop – March 20, 2024

Image by Mirit Ben Nun מירית בן נון