On Jan. 25, 2004, a new blog voice was born. It was that of Leila Abu Saba, whose first post was, characteristically and literally, about peace. It was a two-line blurb about the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center ("a division of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College by Rabbi Arthur Waskow"). The blog was called Dove's Eye View, Leila called herself Bedouina, and from then on she devoted her words and her graceful way of seeing the world to a pacifist interpretation of some of the rawest conflicts: Palestine-Israel, Islamism, environmental desecration, religious bigotry in any form. "The Dove looks for signs of hope," she wrote. She found them, often in the least likely places.
"Never give up. Keep planting. Keep growing. Never, ever, ever give up," she wrote last June, referring to "Permaculture in Palestine" (a form of self-sustaining agriculture that can be put to work countering the effects of Israelis' land expropriation on Palestinian farmers).
Or how about "Scraperbikes" (from April 2008): "Local kids - two miles from my house - turn old bikes into colorful showpieces; they do tricks and parade around in formation. The song lyric says "don't need no car"; they make bicycles into a pop culture phenomenon."
Scraping hope out of thick airs, anywhere.
Six months after starting her blog, Leila was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then liver cancer. She wrote more. She went to school and earned a master's in fine arts. She wrote more. She fought. On Oct. 8, she died.
She was an American born of a Lebanese Christian immigrant and a "Southern WASP" mother, in her words. She'd grown up in the Midwest and the South, spent her summers in Lebanon, briefly married an Egyptian Muslim from an upper-class family in Cairo in her 20s, lived in new York for a dozen years, married a Scottish Jew and settled in Oakland, Calif., where she remained "in the bosom of her multi-cultural extended family."
"Our holidays," Leila wrote, "begin in September with the Jewish New Year, run through the solstice with Hannukah and Christmas, and end in the springtime with back-to-back Passover and Easter celebrations."
Like glints of grace etched in her wake, testimony after testimony on the Web speak to Leila's generosity and warmth across divides, ideological or otherwise. We'd exchanged many emails and links over the few years we knew each other through our sites. She never let anyone imagine that her voice would be silenced. Not so soon. Or that her copious world of words would become a memorial. But there they are. Let's hope the site, Leila's testament and sanctuary to supreme civility, never disappears.