Because a photo in yesterday's Style section was reversed, the identificiations of two women seated on either side of Aliza Begin-Sylva Zalmanson and Meri Knokh-were also reversed.
The gathering: The urns are in place, surrounded by more coffee cups than will be needed, and trays of small pastries. The media arrive, set up lights and microphones, and drink offee. Then come the wives of fomaous men-senators and congressman. Press releases anr given out, introductions made, genteel handshakes exchanged. Aliza Begin, wife of the prime minister of Israel, arrives, tables are moved into place and everyone sits.
The voices: The two un-famous wives speak haltingly, in heavily accented words, to the famous wives and the media. They talk about their husbands and brothers, imprisoned in Russia, they say because they are political dissidents, because they want to go to Isarel.
One gets tears in her eyes as she ends her statement; Aliza Begin pats her head maternally.
"We raise our voice in the name of those who are silenced," says Aliza Begin.
Like the ceremony of lighting the candles on the Sabbath, or going on Friday night to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the public plea on behalf of imprisoned Soviet Jews has taken on some characteristics of ritual.
As in any ritual, it is predictable. And as in any ritual repeated out of devotion, it takes on layers of emotion and commitment that may seem obscured by the familiarity of the words.
The message: Aliza Begin and the others say that in this "time of rejoicing" they want to remember the Jews in prison; they want, once again, to call attention to their plight in the hopes that public furor will accelerate their release or alleviate their punishment.
Yesterday's plea takes the form of a "meeting" at the Washington Hilton with Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry. "If you could do anything, something, to lighten the burden of their sentence," pleads Meri Knokh in translated Hebrew. "If you can put an influence on your husbands it will be a very good idea," Says Israeli consul Sara Frankel.
Two reporters and four photographers show up to hear about Meri Knokh's husband and brothers, and about Ida Nudel, the only woman dissident in prison. Five camera crews and a squad of reporters go later in the day to watch Aliza Begin and Jihan Sadat, wife of the Egyptian president, look at a replica of a Mexican village at the Capitol Hill Children's Museum. A ritual is predictable.
"We can't miss one occasion to say we want our brethren out of Russia," says Begin. Knokh and Zalmanson are part of the Israeli delegation to Monday's peace-treaty signing; they are brought along to repeat their oft-told stories and divert some attention to their cause. Avital Scharansky, the best known of the dissidents' wives, is expected, but is unable to attend.
The grandmother: Begin introduces a last-minute arrival, Rivka Guber-a tiny, white-haired woman in a black dress with a white lace collar. She wears black shoes laced up to her ankles and sits quietly during the presentations.
She is known as "The Mother of the Sons," says Aliza Begin, because her two sons were killed during the war in 1948. Prime Minister Begin mentioned her in his salutation after the treaty signing. She is a "symbol," they say.
The stories: "Now it is 15 years altogether my husband is in prison," says Sylva Zalmanson, 34, "With my little experience of four years in prison I can't imagine 15 years. . . my husband is a strong man, but he gets frustrated. He is all the time in his cell, which he shares with criminals. He polishes glasses in the prison factory. There is no ventilation. . ."
"My husband suffers from bleeding ulcers," says Meri Knokh, 28, in translated Hebrew, "my brother has lost more than 40 pounds. . . These details will suffice to describe their state of health."
I am duty bound to speak for the only woman in prison," adds Aliza Begin. "Ida Nudel is under very bad conditions. . . She knows everything that is going on in the outside world-any attempt to heop her brings joy to her heart. She is the symbol of all prisoners suffering in Russia."
The response: Jeanette Williams, wife of Sen. Harrison Williams (D-N.J.), speaks on behalf of the 100 Congressional Wives for Soviet Jewry, of whom four showed up. Jeanette Williams tells Begin that the group is starting a petition to gather signatures from all 50 states.
"Mrs. Begin, you said that Ida will not do anything else because every time she does she is tortured," says Williams. "She has been silenced. But the Congressional Wives will not be silent. . . ."
The leave-taking: After the speeches, the group gathers for a picture. Tiny Rivka Guber works her way into the middle. "If I'm here, it's a miracle," she announces in barely comprehensible English. She starts talking about her husband, a Hebrew teacher, of moving to Israel in 1924, of her sons. The other ladies drift off as she keeps talking; soon there in only one listener left.
She starts talking about the peace treaty. "I wish my husband (could see it), I wish Golda. . . Now, shalom is like a little baby yesterday born."
She opens her black pocketbook and takes out a folded set of papers. It is a letter she wrote to Anwar Sadat. She turns to the third page and reads the last paragraph, following the words with her finger.
It's about how the burdens of the war cannot be shared, but the "price of peace", can be. "the more its portions are shared, the more is peace itself strenghtened," she reads. The she looks up with a small. "it's my original," she says. "I did it myself."
The departure ": Meanwhile, Aliza Begin goes on to the Children's Museum, and the other wives to their obligations. Helen Jackson, wife of Sen. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.), goes off to find her young son, who has come with her.
Sylva Zalmansaon passes out copies of biographies of her husband. Meriknokh smokes a cigarette and looks very tired.