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Anwar Sadat – a mix of wisdom and innocence


My love of Egypt
Uri Avnery Social activist
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Well, we went back to Cairo, went to the pyramids. Begin went into the pyramids I stayed with journalists outside − the press didn't like me, the editors and so forth. At the end there was a reception by the President for the Prime Minister in one of the President's palaces. The President had lots of palaces scattered all around, all of them magnificent buildings in the oriental style that I love. Not far from the airport in Heliopolis, is what is called Masr el Jadida − the new Egypt… when an Egyptian says 'Masr' he is not referring to Egypt, he is referring to Cairo. The locals call it 'Masr'. So not far from the airport there was this palace where Sadat hosted an official party for all of the Israeli delegation. The newspaper editors were invited by Begin and I was sitting there at the table. At every table there was one Egyptian, one Israeli and other foreign diplomats. And in the courtyard of the palace, in the garden, outdoors, there were spotlights, most romantic, like in the opera Aida or something. In Begin's delegation there was Shimon Avidan, my former commander in Givati during the War of 1948, who'd been invited by Begin, a member of Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz. Begin said: 'He was the commander on the Egyptian front, it is impossible not to invite him'. Begin was really something very special in regard to things like this. I saw him on the bus. Immediately, of course, we sat next to each other. Sitting in the garden at the large party, Shimon Avidan, who had been sitting at another table, came running over to me, saying: 'You must come to my table. The person who was the commander of the Egyptian force in Iraq al-Manshiyya − where you were injured − is sitting there'. And in the spirit of this time of great friendship, I went to him. We talked, we reminisced. He in the meantime had become a general, which means that if I had remained in the army I would also have been a general. And we decided between us that we must arrange a joint gathering of war veterans from both sides as soon as possible, we would arrange a conference etc. That never happened. So we went home. Afterwards I returned to Egypt many times. I always really loved Egypt.

טוב, חזרנו לקהיר, הולכים לפירמידות, בגין נכנס לפירמידות אני נשאר עם העיתונאים בחוץ, העיתונאים שלא אהבו אותי, עורכי עיתונים וכאלה מין. ובסוף הייתה קבלת פנים מטעם הנשיא לראש הממשלה באחד מהארמונות של הנשיא.לנשיא היו המון ארמונות פזורים בשטח, כולם ארמונות מפוארים כאלה בסגנון מזרחי שאני מאוד אוהב. אז לא רחוק משדה התעופה בהליופוליס, מה שנקרא מאסר אל ג’דידה - מצרים החדשה… כשמצרי אומר "מאסר" הוא לא מתכוון למצרים, הוא מתכוון לקהיר. בשפת העם קוראים לה “מאסר”.  אז לא רחוק משדה התעופה יש ארמון כזה ושמה סאדאת עשה מסיבה ממלכתית לכל המשלחת הישראלית. עורכי העיתונים הוזמנו ע"י בגין ואני יושב שמה ליד השולחן. כל שולחן יושבים מצרי אחד, ישראלי אחד ועוד כאלה מין, דיפלומטים זרים. ובחצר של הארמון, בגינה, תחת כיפת השמיים עם זרקורים, הכי רומנטי, כמו באופרה של "אאידה" או משהו. ובין המשלחת של בגין היה שמעון אבידן, המפקד שלי לשעבר בחטיבת "גבעתי" בימי מלחמת 48' שהוזמן ע"י בגין, איש קיבוץ השומר הצעיר. בגין אמר: "הוא היה מפקד החזית המצרית, לא ייתכן לא להזמין אותו”. בגין היה בו באמת משהו מאוד מיוחד בעניינים כאלה. ופגשתי אותו באוטובוס. מיד ישבנו כמובן אחד ליד השני. יושבים בגן של המסיבה הגדולה, בא אלי בריצה שמעון אבידן שישב ליד שולחן אחר, אומר: "אתה מוכרח לבוא לשולחן שלי, יושב פה האדם שהיה מפקד הכוח המצרי בעיראק אל מנשיה איפה שאתה נפצעת”. וברוח הזמן הזה של ההתיידדות הגדולה, הלכתי אליו. דיברנו, החלפנו זיכרונות, הוא כבר בינתיים היה גנרל, מה שאומר שלו הייתי נשאר בצה"ל הייתי גם גנרל. והחלטנו בינינו שאנחנו בהקדם נעשה מסיבה משותפת של ותיקי המלחמה משני הצדדים, נעשה כנס משותף וכו' וכו'. לא יצא לפועל. אז חזרנו הביתה. אחר-כך הייתי במצרים הרבה פעמים, תמיד אהבתי מאוד-מאוד את מצרים.‏


Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Cairo, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Shimon Avidan

Duration: 3 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017