Monday, January 11, 2010

Egypt - Begin and Sadat

I have yet to see the pyramids in Egypt, even though I once lived in the Middle East.

It was complicated. My parents and I lived in Israel in the 1970s and you couldn’t exactly get a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo. The fact that we had Israeli visas stamped in our passports and a home address in Israel made it difficult. In any case, we didn’t go into Egypt and I still long for the day to see the ancient relics left by the pharaohs.

That’s not to say we didn’t witness history between Israel and Egypt. While we were living in Israel something historic happened: Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister and Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, agreed to meet. The American Embassy in Tel Aviv was heavily involved with Sadat’s visit. There were many U.S. congressmen in town for the meeting and my mother and her friend, Tracy, volunteered to take two Congressmen’s wives shopping (this was before my mother joined the foreign service and was still married to my father).

I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but my mother and Tracy somehow ended up at the Prime Minister’s office. They walked through lines of TV cameras and newsmen and into a briefing room with the American Ambassador and U.S. Congressmen. Then Begin came into the room and said, “I have news for you. Sadat is coming here on Saturday.” Everyone stood and clapped. Then Begin gave them an impassioned plea for Israel. My mother was in awe. She was seeing history in the making and was right in the center of it.

It’s hard to believe that its been over thirty years since Sadat landed at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv opening peace talks between Israel and the Arab world. In the speech he gave at the Knesset in Jerusalem he said:

I come to you today on solid ground, to shape a new life, to establish peace. We all, on this land, the land of God; we all, Muslims, Christians and Jews, worship God and no one but God. God’s teachings and commandments are love, sincerity, purity and peace.

Two years later, in March 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a comprehensive peace agreement.

For my Eat Planet project we ate falafel, hummus and pita bread, a very typical Egyptian meal. It was something I had in Israel quiet frequently. You can buy falafel mix at most grocery stores but I bought our falafel sandwiches, hummus and pita at a Middle Eastern restaurant and brought it home to eat. In Egypt, McDonald’s has their version of a falafel sandwich, they call it the McFalafel.

John and Julia aren’t fond of falafel, but I like it. It reminds me of my childhood days in Israel, and it’s a healthy vegetarian meal. The kids, however, do love hummus and pita.

Someday I hope to see the pyramids and, though it may sound sort of ridiculous, peace in the Middle East.

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