November 19, 1977
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s plane landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport at the start of his historic 36-hour visit to Israel.
He was greeted by Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Israeli President Ephraim Katzir, with a 21-gun salute fired in his honor. After the ceremony at the airport, Sadat was driven to Jerusalem for an hour-long meeting with the Prime Minister.
Ten days earlier, on November 9th, after attempts at a joint Soviet-American sponsored peace conference had fallen apart, Sadat, in a speech to Egyptian Parliament offered to go to the Knesset to discuss peace. Begin extended the invitation to Sadat via the United States on November 15 in a letter which stated, “Your Excellency’s readiness to undertake such a visit, as expressed to the People’s Council of Egypt, has been noted here with deep and positive interest, as has your statement that you wish to address the members of our Parliament, the Knesset, and to meet with me.” Sadat quickly accepted the invitation.
When the visit was announced on Israeli radio, residents in Jerusalem took to the streets in celebration and were literally dancing in the streets. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmy resigned believing the visit would hurt Egypt’s reputation with other Arab states. The Syrian government said of the planned visit, “We hold him responsible for the repercussions of his decision.”
An estimated 2,000 journalists came to Jerusalem to cover the historic visit and a special communications center was set up at the Jerusalem Theater to handle the event. The Israeli police cancelled all vacation requests and set up a special security detail to provide for the visit. One woman remarked to the Jerusalem Post, “I saw on TV the landing of the moon – it was nothing compared to this.”