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Mrs. Sadat and Sister of Missing Israeli Soldier Exchange Letters

March 15, 1974
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An exchange of letters between the wife of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the sister of an Israeli soldier missing in the Yom Kippur War, was published here today. The exchange was initiated by Mrs. Ophira Telem, an Acre school teacher, who appealed to Mrs. Gehan Sadat to help determine the fate of her brother, Sgt. Eli Kimche, missing after an Israeli commando raid in the Port Said area last Nov. 17. The letters were sent through the Red Cross. Mrs. Telem’s was dated Dec. 23, 1973 and Mrs. Sadat’s reply, dated Feb. 14, 1974, was widely published in Egypt and Lebanon, though it has not yet reached Mrs. Telem.

The President’s wife reproached Israel’s leaders for allegedly forcing on Egypt a “war that we tried by all means to prevent.” But she observed that there are no true victors or losers in any war. “Whoever was killed in the Oct. war is our son and part of our soul.” Mrs. Sadat wrote, adding. “We the Egyptians truly mean to make every move toward real peace, just and lasting and we want to construct and rehabilitate our country so that our nation will fulfill the hopes for a happy family and a happy home.”

Mrs. Telem’s letter reflected the agony suffered by Israeli families who don’t know if their sons are dead or alive. “As a sister of a missing soldier I am writing to you because my parents swing from hope to despair,” she said. “Now that his name was not on the POW list, they have lost all hope and have changed their way of life. Their sufferings are great… I call on you, as an Egyptian mother, to try and find my missing brother. The weeping of my father who never wept before and the black dress of my mother haunt me. My story is the story of thousands of families.”

Mrs. Telem, whose father is the Mapam representative on the Acre Labor Council, noted in her letter that she was brought up in a mixed Jewish-Arab town “where we know how to live together” and where many Arab friends share her family’s grief. She was not brought up to hate Arabs, she wrote, or to glory in war and killing. “We in Israel do not teach our people to kill,” she wrote.

Mrs. Sadat said in her reply, “My husband believes in the call for peace and love.” She said Egypt fought to free its occupied lands “but we do not wage war for the sake of war. We want peace, but the Israeli leaders, who are the leaders of the army too, have closed all doors…” (By Yitzhak Shargil)

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