On a bare hill at Giza, some three miles from downtown Cairo, stands a simple rest house occasionally used by President Sadat. Its principal feature is a wide veranda that overlooks the Pyramids. The light and shadows constantly change the shape of these massive triangles leaning against each other. These are structures at once simple and monumental; they have endured the elements and man's depredations for as close to eternity as man can reach by his own efforts. In no other place in the world is man forced into humility so exclusively by one of his own accomplishments. In this sea of sand split by the green valley of the Nile stretching a man's vision in a thin straight line for hundreds of miles, there is no natural monument to dwarf him. The most breathtaking landmarks are all manmade, defying time and human fallibility. The Egyptian has reared tremendous edifices to remind him of both the finiteness of the human scale and the reach of human aspirations through recorded history.
One wonders whether Anwar Sadat sat on that veranda as he first began to contemplate his journey to Jerusalem—a move at once simple and awesome like the Pyramids themselves. We do know that not far from this resthouse Israeli and Egyptian negotiators have been meeting now for two weeks in an old hotel. It is in keeping with the spirit of a region where mirage and reality blend that the negotiators are at a bureaucratic level, which guarantees that no significant progress could be made until Premier Begin and President Sadat had met in Ismailia. But the mere presence of Israeli diplomats in Cairo has lent itself to the symbolic manifestations of public feeling so dear to the Arab heart; the massive demonstrations are significant whether they are spontaneous or government-sponsored. Two great peoples have met again as equals. Through the millennia both have suffered and endured; both have been obsessed with permanence, the Egyptians in architecture and the Jews in moral law. Both have now embarked on the quest for that most elusive of all permanencies: a lasting peace.
And these two eternity-obsessed nations are likely to realize their dreams. The very audacity of Sadat's act, like the artificial mountains which are the Pyramids, dwarfs the small calculations of the recent past. Ups and downs are inevitable in the process; there will be complicated negotiations, but the parties have fated themselves to success.
One need only recall the situation of two months ago: then all was preparation for a Geneva conference. But that conference was distrusted by Egypt and Israel alike. Major procedural problems were unresolved: the scope of the plenary and the working groups, the nature of Palestinian participation, the precise role of the Soviet Union. The procedural deadlock would in all likelihood have been followed by a substantive stalemate as the irreconcilability of the opposing publicly stated positions became apparent. All the most intractable issues were thrown together.