Zamy Steynovitz, a young Israeli artist, recently visited Cairo to promote peace between his country and Egypt. Isaac Tourel, who operates an art gallery in Tel Aviv came along to promote Zamy Steynovitz.
Together, they represent a smallscale cultural exchange that shows there is still a desire for peace between Egypt and Israel, but also illustrates the ambivalence of President Anwar Sadat about dealing with Israelis.
Steynovitz and Tourel were here at the invitation of the government. They traveled on Israeli passports and needed the permission of the Israeli authorities to make the trip. They met prominent officials, chatted with journalists and toured some of the pharaonic monuments during their visit last month.
Sadat received them at his rest house north of Cairo and signed one of the limited edition lithographs that Steynovitz created for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo last December and titled "For Peace and Love in the World."
Just as Sadat did not attend that ceremony, sending an assistant to receive the prize he shared with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, he permitted no Egyptian press coverage of his meeting with Steynovitz and Tourel. Egyptian security agents confiscated film of the signing ceremony shot by a photographer Tourel hired.
Tourel, who is Steynovitz's agent and did most of the talking, said sarcastically that he found that hard to understand "in a country where they said everyone is free and we could do whatever we want."
But for Sadat it was consistent. After defying the other Arab governments by going to Jerusalem and later signing the Camp David agreements, Sadat found himself accused of fraternizing with a country that was still technically an enemy.
His response was to curtail the Egyptian-Israeli contacts that flourished briefly in the period a year ago when Israeli journalists flooded Cairo and direct telephone and telex lines were operating. According to Tourel, the president told the two Israelis there will be no more such exchanges until a peace treaty is signed.
The visit of the two Israelis grew out of an exhibition of Steynovitz's works in Oslo Hall during the Nobel Prize ceremonies.
To mark the occcasion, Steynovitz made 200 copies of an intaglio in gold and silver, depicting an olive branch, embracing lovers and a clock without hands and the legend "In homage to the Nobel Prize winners 1978."
Begin signed one at Oslo. Sayed Marei, Sadat's representative, then arranged for Steynovitz and Tourel to visit Egypt and have Sadat sign it too.
Steynovitz has "given his life to the cause of peace," said Tourel. "All his work -- he's given half a dozen exhibitions around the world every year in this cause." The artist and Tourel came to Egypt, he said, "To fight in our own language. Our language is art."
Steynovitz was born in Poland in 1951, the son of Polish Jews who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. He said his grandparents and other relatives died in the camps, which is "one reason I feel very strong about peace."
Steynovitz, a small, gentle, softspoken man, was curious about Egypt. and relieved to find that most Egyptians he has met seem to harbor no bitterness toward his country. When peace comes, he said, he wants to donate an oil painting to hang in the Egyptian parliament.
Steynovitz said he has been painting all his life and is good at it. "I got my first prize in Poland, when I was five," he said with a grin. "Mozart was five when he started. Every generation has its genius."