"Today, peace has already become a shining reality . . . having been deeply engraved in the consciousness of several peoples and having become an integral part of their common spiritual and cultural heritage." -- Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, on the second anniversary of his visit to Jerusalem.
A guard at the Cairo Tower recently found hinself confronted by two tourists from Israel. Without hesitation, the Egyptian escorted them to the head of the long line waiting for a view from the landmark.
In Beirut, however, someone has spray-painted "Allah is great" on a graceful synagogue. And Saudi Arabian consulates still want to know if a visa applicant is Jewish.
Two years after Israel and Egypt launched their historic negotiations, the attitudes of Arabs toward the Israelis are uneven.
Generally, those Arabs in most frequent contact with Israelis are the most relaxed about them. Palestinians in Beirut, for example, more readily voice hatred of Israelis than Palestinians actually living under the Israeli occupation on the West Bank of the Jordan River.
A middle-aged Palestinian, though, with long years of exile in Jordan, bitterly accused the Israelis of distorting the Holocaust story to promote their cause:
"There were never 6 million Jews killed during the war. A million at the most. And they were being disloyal to the German state."
Yet the perfume vendors on the streets of Cairo now shout "Shalom!" when they see what might be a European strolling from sight to sight. A friendly Egyptian recently accosted an American reading an Arabic-language newspaper on the sidewalk and insisted that anyone with European features who reads Arabic must be Israeli.
The friendliness in Egypt stems in part from genuine curiosity but also from the widely shared impression that peace with the Israelis will ease Egyptian poverty. This impression, coupled with resentment at the sight of unshared oil wealth in other Arab countries, has been carefully nurtured by the government-inspired Cairo press.
Nor is Cairo wholly free of the resentments so intensely felt in other parts of the Arab world. A European diplomat here, for example, can find nobody among his upper-class Egyptian friends willing to attend a luncheon for a visting Israeli scholar.
At the same time, Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials in private conversations often express irritaton at the popular enthusiasm for Israeli visitors and frustration at the Israeli envoys they deal with in the U.S.-sponsored West Bank autonomy talks. For these men, the legacy of a generation of war and hatred cannot evaporate so quickly.
They cannot forget so easily as the Egyptian street vendors, for example, that the Israeli agriculture minister who visited here a few weeks ago is the same Gen. Ariel Sharon who led Israel's armored assault across the Suez Canal into the Egyptian heart-land at the end of the 1973 war.
"What is it that they really want?" complained a high ministry official in Cairo after a recent Israeli decision to expand settlements on the West Bank.
Outside of Egypt, the hostility toward the Jews who grabbed Palestinian land and humiliated the Arab world persists. Iraqi newspapers still refer to Israel as "the Zionist entity" to avoid dignifying the state with a proper name.
Conversations with scores of poeple across the Arab world indicate that only a small number genuinely accept the Israeli people themselves. The vast majority, if resigned to accepting the present, are not about to forget the past or abandon the future.
Some Arab analysts say the Arab world was resigning itself to Israel's existence as a state even before Anwar Sadat's initiative. A prominent Palestinian scholar with close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization contends the decisive moment came with the realization in 1973 that, even with surprise and combined Syrian and Egyptian forces, the Arabs were unable to defeat Israel militarily.
Whatever the precise calendar. Sadat's peacemaking has speeded the evolution. The treaty that grew from it has provided a new context: the existence of Israel is a given fact that no longer is the subject of debate but rather its departure point.
Many Middle East analysts insist this is the most significant outcome of the several Arab gatherings held to protest Sadat's moves. For the first time, these analysts say, the Arabs all have agreed to a negotiated solution with Israel, even if only to display their disagreement with the way Sadat has gone about it.