On this farthest shore of the continental United States the dramatic events in the Middle-East seem a long way off. Against the roar of the crowd filling every seat in the huge stadium for the classic encounter between Stanford and the University of California, the voice of Anwar Sadat is a remote voice crying in a wilderness of violence and hate.
Yet, thanks to television, the whole affair was as near as the turn of a knob . The network did a superb job of covering what may-or may not-prove a turning point in the threatening darkness of disaster in the MiddleEast.
The the drama of Sadat's arrival in Tel Aviv unfolded moment by moment with the impact of a prime-time spectacular that even the most inventive scriptwriter would never have dared to dream up.
Sadat kissing Golda Meir. Sadat exchanging greetings with Moshe Dayan. The very presence of Sadat in that crowd of Israelis on Israeli soil was the essence of a moment that defied the blood-stained past.
It was Sadat's show from start to finish. If he felt any trepidation it was never for a moment visible. The man's inner strength, his quiet integrity came throughduring all the crowded hours. He had taken the chance of a life time despite all the risks.
Two years ago my wife and I had a session with Sadat. We had been in Alexandria, where we had seen the Egyptian foreign and defense ministers. Sadat was at his retreat, Borgh el-Arab, on the shore of the Mediterranean about 40 miles from Alexandria in the direction of Cairo on a blistering hot desertroad.
With helicopters hovering overhead, security forces were carefully positioned around the comparatively modest country house built of stone. Wearing khaki fatigues, a shirt open at the throat, Sadat had had the outwartair of a country gentlemen. With him was his vice president, Hosny Mubarak. But there was nothing countrified or modest about what he said.
In a stern voice he breathed his defiance of Israel, knowing we had just come from the other side, making the roundabout journey that took a full day as against the half-hour flight that brought Sadat from Cairo to Tel Aviv. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Arab forces had crossed the Suez Canal for a temporary triumph, although in the end only the intervention of Washington saved the Egyptian Third Army from destruction and capture.
While he was stern and deeply motivated about his conviction that another war would bring an unqualified Arab victory, there was none of the fiery rhetoric that I had remembered from an encounter with his immediate predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser. If the defiance was a show, since he surely knew of the steady and massive Israeli military buildup supplied after the 73 war by the United States, he gave no sign of doubt or uncertainity.
This is the quality of the man that came through in his greatest of all adventures. Unwavering in his appearance before the Knesset, Sadat defined the hard line for settlement that has consistently been the stand of the Arab states. His adversaries in the Arab world could never fault him for that.
So much has happened in the past two years. Again with an act of supreme courage, Sadat broke with the Soviet Union, and one consequence was a cutoff in the flow of spare parts so that Egyptian tanks and long-range guns lie for months unused and the troops that would man them are also idled.
The Egyptian economy is in a shambles. The riots of last February, when Sadat ended subsidies on foodstuffs and other basics, lit up the sky over Egypt's teeming capital. The subsidies had to be restored immediately after heavy casualties and many ruined streets.
The sizable financial help that has come from Saudi Arabia was essential. That help must continue if Sadat is to survive. And this is one of the ifs in a gamble of incredible dimensions.
In a sense the very throughness and skill with which television presented the outward show was a handicap. Despite the occasional cautionary statements of commentators, it was bound to enhance the impression that peace is at hand with only a few details to tidy up. That is far from the truth.
Speaking to the Knesset, Sadat took the stand so often reiterated by the Arabs: The return of all conquered and occupied territory, including Jerusalem, is essential to a settlement.
The last is particularly important for Saudi Arabia, where the Moslem holy places in Jerusalem rank high in the demands of the Saudis. And Saudi Arabia as Egypt's bankers, ranks No. 1 for Sadat's survival.
The equation for the survival is nearly as uncertain as it was before the drama of Sadat's visit across the great divide.