CAIRO (Jun. 6)
Yesterday, June 5 was the 12th anniversary of the Six-Day War. In early morning, a siren wailed in the streets of Cairo. Passersby with a sense of history must have smiled inwardly as they saw the familiar eye patched figure streaking through the city in a shiny limousine. The one man, 12 years earlier to the moment, had been responsible for the sounding of sirens of a different kind in the Egyptian capital.
Nor was the exquisite poignancy of yesterday’s anniversary last on Moshe and Rachel Dayan, as they surveyed, an hour later, the slim sliver of inhabited, Nileside Egypt from the cockpit of an Egyptian plane heading for Luxor. Twelve years ago, other Israelis, in other planes headed on the same course, had surveyed the same breathtaking scenery from aloft. Their mission had been to sow destruction and havoc at Luxor airport and a dozen other airstrips through out the country. Yesterday, Dayan’s purpose was to lay another stone on the rising edifice of peace.
At last, after 30 years of enforced estrangement from a field which fascinates him, ancient Egyptology, he plunged with boundless enthusiasm, and to the evident delight of his hosts, into the fantastic treasures of the capital of Pharaonic civilization. Even the airplane in which Dayan and his party were flown to Luxor symbolized the cataclysm that has occurred since that June morning in 1967. It was a C-130 (a Hercules), one of the dozen whose supply by the U.S. to Egypt in 1976 provoked an indignant outcry from Israel.
There were no harsh words about the plane yesterday. Instead, Dayan and his wife posed with the pilot in the cockpit while the flight engineer snapped them, and then squeezed in beside the flight engineer for the pilot to record this piece of history in his family album.
Moshe and Rachel Dayan reminisced quietly about the breakfast they had hurriedly eaten together at a little cafe near the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv exactly 12 years before. “I knew there was something up,” Rachel recalled. “He said he had no time to drive me to work…”
Once in Luxor, and with the welcomes of local dignitaries pleasantly bestowed, Dayan threw himself into the archaeological experience which surely has few parallels the world over with energy and stamina that defied his 62 years. Ferried around between the spectacular tombs and temples aboard a dusty, dented limousine, the Foreign Minister brushed aside the exhausted moans of his sweating entourage, trudging through the underground chambers, deciphering the hieroglyphics, staring entranced at the bas-reliefs, firing innumerable questions at his guide, seeking to cram into a few hours an itinerary which tourists with more time to spare take a leisurely week over.
The four embraced the great temples of Karnak the tombs of Tutenkamen and of Seti I in the “Valley of the Kings,” the temple of Queen Hutshepsut, the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, and the beautifully appointed Luxor Archaeological Museum.
Incredibly, all this still left time for two lazy crossings of the Nile aboard a pleasure boat an exchange of banter in Yiddish with visiting American tourists, some handshaking — in flat contravention of the Egyptian security men’s insistence — with ecstatic local peasants, and a lunch at the “New Winter Palace” Hotel, which adjoins the late King Farouk’s erstwhile rest-home.
Dayan’s adroitness at reading hieroglyphics astonished even his close aides. “I knew he dabbled,” said Naftali Lavie, his longtime spokesman, “but I never knew he was fluent in it.” Dayan’s performance earned him high marks from his guide. the Director of Antiquities for the Luxor region, Mohammed Alsagire.
“No matter how many books I have read and pictures I have studied,” said Dayan appreciatively, “nothing can even begin to compare with seeing the real thing in its proper perspective.” With the complicated logistic arrangements, which had to span both sides of the river and air, land and water transport, working like a well oiled machine, a tired, grimy, but radiantly satisfied Foreign Minister, flew back to Cairo as the sun set. His aides, equally exhausted, and no less uplifted, catnapped aboard the thunderously noisy Hercules in preparation for a long evening of negotiations with their Egyptian counterparts over arrangements that will enable ordinary Israelis to follow in Dayan’s footsteps and experience the incomparable monuments of Egypt.