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The River Diaries

Thursday, January 25, 2001

A few days ago I heard Gila’s voice on my answering machine. She would be in New York for a brief while, staying not far from me. Could we meet for breakfast? I said of course, of course, thinking both how was this going to work — Di and I had every minute filled with all we had to do to leave on time — and the wonder of the fact I had just written only a few days before that Gila and I had never met in the flesh. I am beginning to think that this website has the ability to call people and places into being. We arranged to meet at the Argo diner, a neighborhood hangout that Gila was well familiar with. The morning was gray, old snow still holding on; I entered the restaurant thinking how will I know her, how will she know me, but as always, there was no need to worry. A smiling white-haired woman waved at me as I glanced down the aisles; she stood to welcome me, a wonderful strapping presence; we embraced and sat across from each other. She told me she had come to America because her mother had just died — a sad journey, and now she was ready to go back to Israel to continue her life. What I most remember from that morning was her face, framed by that rich white hair, thick and wavy, her face, so vital, so full, and her words, telling me that however bad things looked, she could still see that some progress had been made in the last ten years. We need to have the long look, she said. She grew sad when she told me of the everyday dangers Palestinians face who have Israeli Jewish friends in the peace movement — it is too dangerous for them now.

Our meeting went by quickly — we took leave on Broadway. Gila had that comfortable traveler’s look I have come to know from Di and her friends, women who travel all over the world in the pursuit of a community of ideas and action — her backpack had her day’s necessities, her whole body paused in its forward motion. You know, you must come to Israel some day, she had said. As I did with Lepa, I saw my own provincialism, my own limitations so clearly. We both knew that she and the progressive women and men who support peace in Israel have a long, hard and, I am sure, dangerous road ahead. I think we must be on that road together.


© 2001 Joan Nestle

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