Abdel Fattah Arafa and his colleagues have been preparing for peace since 1973 by rewriting history.
In their dingy, obscure offices at the Ministry of Education, Arafa and other curriculum supervisors have been changing text books and revising courses to prepare Egyptain school children for the peace treaty they were sure was coming. Denunciations of Israel, attacks on Zionism and appeals for armed struggle were eliminated, Arafa said, and replaced by "just the facts."
Arafa, who is chancellor of history, geography and civics for Egypt's public schools, said proudly that "no books that are in the schools now will have to be removed" to reflect the new reality of peace with a country that was an enemy for 30 years. Foreigners surprised by the relative smoothness with which Egypt has made the psychological transition from war to peace might find part of the answer in the schools, where, Arafa said, it has been a long time since hatred of Israel was taught.
He and other curriculum supervisors said it was clear after the 1973 Middle East war that President Anwar Sadat was taking a new path toward peaceful negotiations, and work began shortly thereafter to change school syllabuses to reflect what Sadat was doing.
"This really has been coming since 1971," Arafa said, when Sadat, in one of the first major speeches of his presidency, said he would consider making peace with Israel under certain conditions. Egypt could not make peace then, Arafa said, because it was a defeated country, but that was changed by the 1973 war.
Egypt and Israel renounced the use of force in the 1975 disengagement agreement and agreed at that time to tone down their propaganda blasts at each other. The curriculum revision grew out of that.
"As you can see," Arafa said, displaying new textbooks on his desk, "we have already made the changes. Before, we had a somewhat different approach, because we were defeated and of course we had a different leader," a reference to Sadat's predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Goude Ahmed Soleiman, chancellor of Islamic religious instruction and Arabic language training, gave this example of how the new approach was incorporated into the school system.
Egyptian schoolchildren are required to do rhetoric exercises or recitations aimed at improving their mastery of the language. These exercises, he said, were used to instill in Egyptian youth feelings of "moral struggle and morale and revenge" against Israel by dwelling on incidents like the bombing of Bahr elBakr. In April 1970, during the "war of attrition," the Israelis bombed an elementary school in the Nile Delta village of Bahr el-Bakr, killing 19 children and wounding 40 more, and editorials and magazine articles about this incident were used in classrooms for recitation exercises.
"Our children were taught struggle and revenge," Soleiman said. "But we got our revenge in the October  war. Now it's finished. Incidents like the schoolhouse bombing have been stopped."
So thoroughly have those exercises been purged, he said, that he no longer has any samples of the kinds of things the children were formerly required to recite.
"We didn't change anything that had to do with out principles, like our commitment to full withdrawal from the occupied territories," said Soleiman's counterpart for Christian education, Salah Damien Girguis. "But we changed the psychological atmosphere to emphasize peaceful and political solutions."
"In our books, there is not a single word against Jews," Soleiman said."You must understand that any Moslem is required to respect Judaism and Christianity."
He said there are many countries in the world - "France and Germany, the U.S. and Japan" - that made peace after bitter war, and it is "only natural that our hostility came to an end after we got our revenge."
To demonstrate the objectivity of the new curriculum, Arafa read examples.
A sixth-grade text on the major points of Egyptian history since Nasser's 1952 revolution ascribes Egypt's defeat in the 1967 war to lack of preparedness and the maneuverings of politicians around Nasser. It says Israel exploited these weaknesses, but it does not blame or criticize the Israelis for doing so.
Then it gives this account of the causes of the 1973 war:
"All nations supported Egypt and the Arabs against Israel's occupation of Arab land. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 said Israel should withdraw, but Israel refused. Her planes bombed Egyptian villages. They killed the children in a primary school in Bahr El-Bakr and also the laborers in an iron factory near Cairo. They set yp a military fortification called the Bar-Lev Line, which international experts said was impregnable."
Then, the book says, Sadat appointed more competent military leaders and obtained new equipment, while working politically to rally all Arabs against "the Zionist danger. He convinced all states of the world that Egypt wanted peace based on justice and that Israel's refusal to withdraw from Arab land would cause another war."
Disinterested readers might find that selective, but Arafa said it was "the facts, the objective facts."
Another text, "recent and contemporary Arab history," which went into use in the high schools last year, tells of the Zionist movement and the establishment of Israel in dispassionate terms.
"During World War II," it says, "the Zionists established close relations with the great powers, especially Britain, and raised Jewish divisions to help the Allies in the war against the Nazis and the Fascists. At the end of the war, the issue of Zionism became urgent and dangerous. Great numbers of Jews were immigrating into Palestine, especially those who suffered under the Nazis."
By comparison with the anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist tirades disseminated daily in the media of other Arab countries, and formerly heard here, this approaches complete neutrality.
Egyptians generally say that in the years before the establishment of Israel, the people of Egypt lived in harmony with the Jewish community here, then numbering more than 100,000. Some Jewish scholars dispute that, but the Egyptians believe it and say they are prepared to return to harmonious relations with the Jews.
"You saw what happened when the first Israelis came here for the Mena House peace conference [in December 1977]," Soleiman said. "Everybody welcomed them."
But there are exceptions, of whom the best known is Anis Mansour, a prominent newspaper and magazine editor who is personally close to Sadat and noted for his denunciations of Jews.
Two days after the peace treaty was signed, he published a column warning that Jews were "very cruel and ruthless." He said that if his readers "give them a chance, you will see what kind of human beasts they are. What is it they are doing to Palestinians in prison? What is it they are doing everywhere in the world? They smuggle illicit drugs, open cabarets and trade in white slavery."