At the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington yesterday, the televisions all were on by 9 a.m. Those of the elderly Jewish residents who could gathered before the sets, watching silently as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat called for an end to years of war between Arab and Jew.
For many, like 80-year-old Rose Yasney, it was a long-looked-for turn toward peace.Sixty-two years ago Mrs. Yasney came to the United States to escape growing religious persecution in her native Poland, and yet as Sadat spoke she remembered with fondness her tiny Polish village where her family had been the only Jews.
While anti-semitism plagued Jews elsewhere in the country, she recalled, in her family had friends.
"We trusted each other," she to live in peave, they've got to trust each other."
Sadat's visit, she said, was "a step to peace and not to fight." Nonetheless, most of her fellow residents could not resist talking about the bloody record of "peace" between the two nations. And a few expressed strong reservations about the value of Sadat's historic mission.
"He (Sadat) offered Israelis peace but with the conditions they ahve known all these years." said Sadye Monderer, 85. "The Isralis also offered nothing new. The only thing that (Prime Minister Menachem) Begin said everything is negotiable."
The Egyptian president's talk as well as speeches by Prime Minister Begin and the Israeli Labor Rights Shimon Peres were carried live via satellite by all the major television stations. The speeches began at 9 a.m. and lasted until about 11:30.
Sadat's speech yesterday, stressing a message of peace, was the high-point so far in his historic visit, which began Saturday and marks the first time an Arab leader has visited the Jewish state.
Many of the 262 residents at the home, located on Montrose Road in Rockville, said they had visited Israel and had relatives living there.
Most talked of the Arab-Israeli conflict with a detailed, and at times seemingly scholarly knowledge of its history.
Some reacted strongly against Sadat's plea to Israel to give up certain occupied lands. "Did Russia ever give up any land it won in war?" asked Abraham Goldsman, 86, a retired traveling salesman who was born in what was then called Russian Poland (Poland, partitioned by her enemies in the 18th century, did not re-emerge as an independent country until the end of World War I.
"In the 1950s they (the Arabs) promised that there would not be any more wars, but they did not keep that promise. On the holiest of holidays. Yom Kippur. How can you trust a people like that?" asked Sarah Wegbreit, 80, who was also born in Poland.
"The (Arab) terrorists' children - the first words they learn are to hate the Jews . . . The terrorists, they are the problem," Mrs. Wegbreit continued, shaking her head. The walls of her tiny, sunlit room at the home are decorated with a "trees for Israel" poster, a picture of David Ben Gurion, one of Israel's founding fathers - its first prime minister, and a wooden plaque of a man and woman planting trees on a hillside - all souvenirs of her three trips to Israel.
Despite their reservations and fears for Israel, the residents had only praise for Sadat's gesture of peace.
"He deserves the greatest historical credit," said Goldsman as he propped himself up in his bed to get a better view af his television of Beginaddressing the Israeli parliament.