Menachem Begin Becomes First Israeli PM to Visit Egypt

As part of the follow up from the signing of the Camp David Accords (September 17, 1978), Israeli Prime Minister Begin visits Cairo. This trip marks the first time that an Israeli Prime Minister had visited Cairo, let alone any other Arab capital city. In the midst of an extreme heat wave (108 Degrees), Begin is greeted at the airport by a small handful of Egyptian political figures (roughly 25), journalists, and an Egyptian military band playing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva. With the Israeli and Egyptian flags waving together above the tarmac as Begin exits his plane, this trip signals a new phase of improved relations between the previously warring countries.

After shaking the hands of political, academic, and military leaders of Egypt, Begin and his entourage begin a day of sightseeing, including the Giza Pyramids, Egyptian war memorials, and a prayer service at Cairo’s Gates of Heaven Synagogue, where he is warmly greeted by members of the Jewish community. That evening, at a dinner hosted by President Sadat, Begin states as part of a toast, “We appeal to those who, for the time being, took or were misled to take negative attitude or relinquish that futile negativism and join us in the peace making effort for their benefit as for ours. I am convinced that in G-d’s good time, they will do so.”

The next day in meetings between Begin and Sadat, the two agree to hold further talks in El-Arish and Beer Sheva to discuss the opening of borders between Egypt and Israel and further push the peace process. The leaders agree to begin a series of exchanges of Cabinet Ministers from the two countries, beginning with Moshe Dayan, who was to visit Cairo the following week.
The photo shows Menachem Begin at the Great Pyramids in Giza on April 2, 1979.

Photo by Ya’acov Sa’ar, Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0