Israel is everywhere, Israel is on the tennis courts at the Gezira Sporting Club, in Alexandira, at the pyramids, in the Mohammed Ali mosque, the Egyptian museum, the bazaars of Khan Khalili, in President Anwar Sadat's official residence at Cairo's desecreated Jewish cemetery, in the night clubs.
Apprehensively at first, then curiously, now almost routinely the Israeli diplomats and journalists who came here for the preparatory peace talks have thrown themselves into the life of Egypt - and the Egyptians have replied in kind.
At the Sahara City light club, the belly dancer induced former Knesset member Uri Avineri join her. Soon there were a score of Israelis in the dance, their rhythmic shimmies winning the applause of the audience.
When the official delegation slipped out for an unannounced late-night tour of the city, they were spotted in the crowded, cramped lanes of Khan Khalili, the centuries-old bazaar near the Al Azhar Mosque. Egyptians are already familiar with the bearded face of chief negotiator Eliahu Ben Elissar, who is pictured daily in the Cairo press.
There was surprise, then an outburst of enthusiastic welcome. Crowds gathered, clapping, cheering, yelling "Long Live!" and "Welcome Israel!" The familiar ululating cry of Arab women, usually hearf at weddings, went up.
A little boy in a long white Galabeya, abeya, the robe worn by most Egyptian males, ran after the group and pushed a token of friendship into the hands of an Israeli woman reporter - the bag of popcorn he had been munching.
Outside the Egyptian museum, another little boy ran up to present the Israeli his bag of peanuts.
An Israeli journalist inquired about interesting one-day trips outside Cairo. When someone suggested he might go to Suez, the city at the southern end of the Suez Canal that was badly battered in the 1967 and 1973 wars, he observed that he had already been there - from the other side.
The manager of the Maen House Oberoi Hotel, site of the conference, invited delegates and press to a lavish cocktail party. The shrimp were enormous, the liquor abundant and the atmosphere astounding to Middle East hands accustomed to taking Egyptian-Israeli hostility for granted. Egyptians and Israelis mingled freely, chatting and exchanging views. A foreigner could almost hear the mental wheels turning as they reassessed each other.
During the party, Dan Pattir, official spokesman of the Israeli delegation, approached Abdullash Fuad, an Egyptian diplomat on assignment to Sadat's press office. Pattir wanted permission for Israeli journalists to use a certain room otherwise off limits to the press for his daily briefings.
Of course, said Fuad. No problem. He would arrange it right away.
"That is the way we have agreed to do things," Faud told a bystander. "That is how it is going to be. We are cooperating."
The peace talks brought hundreds of journalists to Cairo but since the opening of the conference, they hve had little to do. The talks are in recess and there has been little other news.
Even participants admit the conference has been a bit of a bore, an odd offset to the momentous events taking place in other forums. No one was surprised to see a French correspondent, his chair propped againstt the wall of the press room, snoring away as his tape recorder played on into his ear.
Given Sadat's skill at using newspapers and televsision to wage his peace campaign and court world opinion, however, these have proved to be fruitful times for journalists in Cairo. Correspondents have had unprecedented access to the Eguptian president and other officials. Sadat's acting foreign minister, Boutros Ghali, briefs the press as zealously as his precedcessor refused to do. Gen. Mohammed Gamassi, the minister of war, who never talked to the press, also has begun to open up a bit, even granting an interview to a correspondent from Israel.
There is one group of journalists not getting this treatment - the Soviets. Correspondents from Tass. Izvestia, Pravda and Soviet television are finding that the chill between Moscow and Cairo has cut off their access to the Egyptians, and they are being blasted in local editorials. Since Moscow does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, the Soviet press corps has been reduced to seeking out friendly Americans to inquire about what is going on.
The eagerness of the Egyptians to be friends with israel at long last keep showing itself, sometimes in odd ways.
The streets of all of downtown Cairo are crossed by banners put up by merchants and government workers acclaiming Sadat and asking for peace, sometimes in fractured English. One that has already vanished said: "Children of the Bambino shop pray to God to give their dady Sadat long life and success."
When the driver of a hired car learned that his passenger was a television newsman going to see Sadat, he wrote out a message of support for the president ona scrap of paper. The correspondent delivered it, and Sadat pronounced it "very touching."
In Alexandria, the Israeli were received by the governor, Abdel Thawab Hodieb. To their surprise, he said the city's univeristy would welcome Israeli exchange students and he hoped for exchanges of scientific information and of tourism. Ben Elissar said he belived the Israeli will come when they have the opportunity.
The Israelis also visited Alexandria's synagogue and Jewish old-age home, still maintained by the 110 members of the city's Jewish community. At both they were greeted by cheering, chanting Egyptians, bidding them welcome and "Shalom," and even "Long Live Begin."
Two Israeli Rotarians attended the weekly Rotary Club lunch at the Nile Hilton and made the customary exchange of club flags. One Israeli writer was invited to lunch at the exclusive Automobile Club. Others have had appointments with intellectuals, government officials, opposition leaders and even Palestinian activists - all with the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities. When the Israelis toured the Mohammed Ali mosque, a tourist must, the guide refused to accept the customary tip.