More than a thousand wildly cheering Egyptians, shouting "Peace" in Hebrew and Arabic, welcomed the Israeli delegation to the Cairo peace talks this evening as it arrived at the only Jewish synagogue here that is still active.
The three-man Israeli delegation, accompanied by nearly a hundred journalist, staff aides and security officers, came to Gate of Heaven synagogue on Adly Street, in Cairo's main shopping district, to attend services.
Many of the Israeli journalists here for the peace talks had come to services last night, swelling the dwindling congregation of a dozen or so that worships in the synagogue regularly, and word had spread overnight that the delegates themselves would come for this evening's services.
Hundreds of Egyptians were waiting when the vehicles of the Israeli delegation came, escorted by Egyptian police. The police had a hard time pushing back the crowd that excitedly welcomed the Israelis, shouting praises to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as "the emissary of peace" and chanting hopes of peace. The names of Israeli leaders David Ben Gurion and Prime Minister Menahem Begin were also heard in the chants.
The excitement reached its peak when Eliahu Ben Elissar and the other members of the Israeli delegation. Meir Rosenne and Lt. Gen. Avraham Tamir, crossed the street to shake hands with people in the crowd. Tamir was wearing his Israeli army dress uniform for the first time since his arrival in Cairo on Tuesday.
Inside the synagogue the atmosphere was festive even though reporters and television crews frequently obscured the view of the guests of honor who were seated special section near the east wall of the synagogue.
Several dozens of Cairo's Jewish community of less than 200, survivors of a once 80,000-strong community, were there to greet the guests and conduct the short service.
Each Israeli guest was given a small aromatic branch, one of the symbols used in the srevice. When the readings were over the leaders of the Jewish community here read in Arabic the customary prayer of blessing to the Egyptian government.
Ben Elissar then said a few words in French, the language most used by Cairo Jewry. He thank the congregation for the hospitality it accorded the Israeli delegation and wished them a happy reunion with members of their families in Israel.
The congregation applauded as the Israeli diplomat blessed them with the eternal Jewish hope of "next year in Jerusalem."
When the Israeli group retunred to its car, crowds broke out the police lines, reaching through the windows of the cars to shake hands and shouting cheers until long after the convoy was gone.