Egyptian President Anwar Sadat walked somberly through Israel's Yad Vashem memorial today, furrowing his brow and mopping his face with a handkerchief as he was shown photographs of Jews being shoved naked into Nazi gas chambers.
When the first Arab leader to visit Israel concluded a 40-minute tour of the memorial to 6 million Jews who died in German death camps, he inscribed the guestbook with payers: "May God Guide our steps toward peace. Let us end all suffering for mankind."
Sadat's visit to Yad Vashem climaxed an extraordinary day of symbolism during which the Egyptian leader piled gesture upon symbolic gesture in his bid to achieve a psychological break-through in Arab-Israeli relations.
Before his historic address to the Knesset, the Egyptian leader made another dramatic bid to create a new atmosphere of shared humanity by lying a floral wreath at the memorial to the Jewish soldiers who have died in wars with the Arabs.
Making possible the president's unhindered movement was an Israeli security force of some 10,000 troops and police - a phalanx augmented by a small Egyptian force that was initimately intergrated.
Sadat's day - which also included a visit to the Church of the Holp Sepulchre, the spot revered as Jesus Christ's tomb - began at 6.45 a.m. with morning prayers at the third holiest shrine in Islam, Old Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque.
There, Sadat encountered the first of two small hostile demonstrations by Palestinians. A few hundred youths who had been denied access to Al Aqsa pushed briefly through police lines chanting "Palestine, Palestine."
The shrine was to have been open to the Moslem faithful, but the Israeli authorities restricted access, saying that the mosque was already filled with invited guests.
The Israeli's had said that the visit to Al Aqsa represented the greatest security risks in Sadat's visit to Israel. It was on the steps of the 1,200-year-old mosque that King Abdullah of Jordon, the grandfather of the present King, was assassinated in 1951 because he was openly seeking peace with Israel.
A large number of Israeli and Egyptian security men - setting side-by-side, cross-legged in stocking feet, inside the mosque - rose when Sadat entered to hold back enthusiatic workshippers who approached the leader rhythmically clapping and chanting "Sadat, Sadat" and "Allah, Allah, Akhbar" (God is great).
Police helicopters whirred over-head. Israeli border guards stood with rifles atop all the high spots in the neighborhood. Anyone entering the area was searched and reporters's cameras and tape recorders were checked twice.
The ceremony was boycotted by all the Arab mayors of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, who had been specially invited.
One of the leading Arabic newspapers in Jerusalem, Fajr, generally favorable to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, gave its main front-page headline to a story that the West Bank mayors would pray together instead at a mosque associated with the memory of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sadat's predecessor as the leader of Egypt and the leading proponent of modern pan-Arabism before his death seven years ago. The main page one photo was a reprint showing Yasser Arafat talking to Nasser.
At Al Aqsa, Sadat heard a sermon calling on him not to "give up Jerusalem."
"To abandon Jerusalem," the imam said, "would be the same as destroying Mecca and Medina," the two holiest sites of Islam.
Sadat, frequently wiping perspiration from his forehead as he did throughout the day, nodded his agreement. Later, at the Israeli Parliament, Sadat stressed Arab rejection of Israeli sovereighty over Old Jerusalem.
The mosque service was for the Feast of the Sacrifice, a major Moslem holiday marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage to Meccca and commemorating Abraham's readiness to follow God's order to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
In his speech, Sadat noted the symbolism of his visit during a major Islamic feast day and said it was especially appropriate that it should be a holiday dedicated to Abraham, whom Jews and Arabs regard as their common ancestor.
Sadat's visit to the mosque produced the first concrete Israeli-Egyptian agreement of the trip. Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek agreed to let a team of Egyptian architects come to provide for restoratio work at Al Aqsa, part of which is still damaged by the fire set there in 1969 by an insane Australian, Dennis Micheal Rohan. That fire sparked heavy rioting among Jerusalem Arabs who accused Israel of responsibility.
The restoration project includes recreation in Egypt of a pulpit to replace the damaged one. It was originally presented by Saladin, the Moslem sultan who sought to drive the Christians from Palestine.
Kollek asked Sadat to convey an invitation to the mayor of Cairo to visit Jerusalem. The Jewish mayor presented the Arab leader with three oil lamps excavated in the city by archeologists. They date from periods of Jewish. Christian, and Moslem rule in the first, third and seventh centuries A.D. The box was inscribed, "To President Sadat, Bearer of Peace."
Sadat expressed great interest in archeological digs that Kollek showed him near the mosque. There has been a major international controversy over Israelis archeological excavation in the area. Some Arabs allege that the Israelis are only interested in Jewish remains, that they have destroyed valuable Moslem finds to get at Jewish one.
After Al Aqsa, Sadat toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. An Arabia-speaking, English-born monk showed him the Stone of Unction, where the body of Christ is said to have been annointed after the crucifixion.
The Coptic archbishop explained his church's disput with the Abyssinian Church over the ownership of part of the building. Various portions are owned and administered by different Christian communions.
Sadat said he was visiting the church to honor the Copts of Egypt, who number over 2 million.He said he wanted to contribute money to repair the Coptic community's school in Jerusalem.
Minutes after Sadat left the church came the second hostile demonstration of the day.A few hundred teenagers and younger children marched toward the church from the Via Dolorosa, chanting "Sadat Traitor" and "Long Live Palestine," and shouting pro-Nasser slogans.Police broke up the crowd with little difficulty, although the demonstrators threw a few rocks at the police.
The Egyptian president did not climb the difficult, narrow and winding stairway that leads to Golgotha, the traditional site of the Crucifixion.
At one point, the solemnity of the visit was shattered when an Israeli officer shouted angrily at his men to stop gaping at Sadat and look the other way for potential trouble from the crowd.
In the company of Israel Prime Minister Menahem Begin, Sadat spent 45 minutes inspecting exhibits, portraying Nazi atrocities against the Jews, at the Yad Vasmen (Eternal Remembrance) museum and memorial.
Gideon Hausner, the head of the institution and a former Cabinet minister, kept stressing that the experience of World War II has made Israelis determined to provide for their own survival.
"I understand," replied Sadat, "I understand you and will not forget this exhibit," said a solemn Sadat at the end.
Sadat stood for a minute of silence before the Eternal Flame in the Yad Vashem crypt, where ashes from concentration camp cremetoria are reburied. He declined, however, to don the traditional Jewish skullcap offered him.
Hausner paid tribute to the apparent sincerity of Sadat, who was interned by the British during World War Ii for his pro-Nazi sympathies.
Like the rest of the events the visit to the Jewish shrin was broadcast live by Egyptian radio and televsion. Egypt has also stopped jamming the Arabic-language programs of Israeli radio.
Israeli Communications Ministry officials say they are prepared to make permanent the telecommunication links that have been temporarily established between the two countries.
Israeli radio and TV have been full of interviews with top Egyptian editors and commentators who make up parts of the vast press corps here for the visit.
Sadat's symbolic gestures have seemed to impress most Israelis and to contribute to the euphoria in the country. But sceptics remain. "I'm still not so sure about all this. He's very Machiavellian," said a woman bank teller. Radio Israel ended a long string of involved and favourable man-in-the-street interviews with a woman who said curtly, "I just don't trust the whole thing."