Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin was not as impressed with the Great Pyramids as most visitors to Egypt, or at least not in quite the same way.
Upon his return to Israel, reporters asked him to describe his feelings about his first visit to Egypt.
Begin said he was taking all the peacemaking very calmly because that was what he had always expected to do. "But," he said, "when a Jew and an Israeli flies over the pyramids, he has feelings.
He spoke of "our forefathers" who built the pyramids when they were enslaved in Egypt.The Cheops pyramid is "tremendous," considering the three million stones needed to build it, Begin said. "And how they schlepped those stones in those day is very difficult to understand," he said.
Begin laced his English with a common Yiddish word that a Jewish housewife might use to describe how tiring it had been to drag her packages and pull her children around a crowded department store during peak shopping hours.
Schlep though he ancient Hebrews undoubtedly did when they were captives in Egypt, scholars now dispute that they had anything at all to do with the rocks of the pyramids.
The Jews did not go to Egypt to escape drought and famine in their homeland until 500 years after the Pharaoh's tombs were built.
"We don't ask for any payment for the hard labor they invested then," said Begin, showing however, that he disapproved of the whole pyramid-building enterprise."It's very difficult to understand how the rulers came to this idea where they must, if I may say so, 'enternalize' themselves forever."
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had suggested taking Begin on a helicopter ride over the pyramids. Apparently, the two were so busy talking about modern Israeli-Egyptian disputes that they ran out of time. So, Begin's plane, an El Boeing 707 became the first Israeli airliner to buzz the pyramids, flying over them on the way home.
It was uncertain whether the last statement was meant to have political signifincance or to be an admission that, perhaps, after all, Begin had in late life finally caught a bit of the tourist bug.