YESTERDAY IT WAS NOT only what we saw on television that counted, but also what we heard and understood. "Let there be no more wars and bloodshed between Arabs and Israelis," said Anwar Sadat, putting it as well as anyone could, in his round, rich voice that always manages to give "Israelis" five syllables. Behind him as he spoke, and throughout the treaty-signing ceremonies, the outcries of protesters mixed with the bells of St. John's church, like an echo of mourners in an old abbey. The outcries were telling -- not because they damaged what was fully a joyous event; but rather because they served to illustrate that even in our best collective moments, there is always a sound, as if from another world, ready to drown the day.
That sound is usually a sound from the past, since it implies that having seen the past, and having suffered, one therefore must mistrust the future. Menachem Begin, a man who bases his stubbornness on memories -- some of them the most painful, as he recalled in yesterday's remarks -- understands what it means to rely onthe past.He also understands, however, that one cannot live there -- no individual and no naiton can. He came more warily to yesterday's table, but he came nevertheless, quoting in Hebrew Psalm 126, which ends: "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing."
The rejoicing was general yesterday. We don't get too many chances to watch nations make peace. But there in plain view sat two men who have come to know each other well by now, and have managed, not without resistance, to extend their mutual understanding to that of their peoples, who we trust, will not regard each other as monsters again. Both Mr. Begin and Mr. Sadat showered praise on Mr. Carter, who well deserved it. But the two principals were the enemies, and the major act of faith was theirs.
As for the cries of the protesters, it is always better to hear them than not. For they remind us that to make peace is a decision against our own capacities for intransigence and hatred, and for living with the noise of the dead.