Sadat in Jerusalem: Behind the Scenes

(Jewish Review of Books) Menahem Milson - At the time of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's 1977 visit to Israel, I was head of the Department of Arab Affairs for the military government of Judea and Samaria and served as military aide-de-camp for the visiting president. One of the most sensitive issues was the problem of Sadat's safety during his prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The security services recommended barring all worshippers from the Al-Aqsa compound during Sadat's visit, except for his entourage and the heads of the Muslim Waqf which administers the mosque. In 1951, King Abdullah I of Jordan (the great-grandfather of the present king of Jordan) had been assassinated in the Al-Aqsa Mosque by a Palestinian gunman. Although I understood the security considerations, barring worshippers from the Al-Aqsa compound struck me as deeply misguided. Showing Sadat on TV screens across the Arab world praying at the mosque in isolation would in itself be a victory for those who opposed the visit. It was extremely important, I said, that the images of Sadat's prayer at Al-Aqsa showed him surrounded and applauded by many Palestinian Muslim worshippers. According to our inquiries, there were thousands of Palestinians who would be willing to come and pray with Sadat, and we were given permission to invite 1,500 people. When President Sadat and his entourage arrived at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, it was full of Muslim worshipers. When he entered the compound, a cheer went up: "Long live the hero of peace, we shall sacrifice our blood and life for you, O Sadat." Sadat's face lit up as press and TV cameramen captured the moment. Upon his return to Egypt, he declared: "In Jerusalem I met the real Palestinians."

2016-01-08 00:00:00

Full Article


Visit the Daily Alert Archive