Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat Assassinated

Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat Assassinated

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On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat was shot by Muslim extremists during a military parade commemorating the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel. In the first hours following the shooting, while Sadat lay in a hospital, the CBS News Bureau in Cairo tries to make sense of conflicting reports on whether the Egyptian leader had died.

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404 – Byzantine Empress Eudoxia bleeds to death shortly after after a miscarriage during her 7th pregnancy.

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The Assassinations of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin

Middle East Map עברית: מפה מדינית של המזרח התיכון Bahasa Indonesia: Peta yang menunjukkan Asia Barat Daya - Istilah "Timur Tengah" lebih sering digunakan untuk merujuk kepada Asia Barat Daya dan beberapa negara di Afrika Utara (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Certain people in history have tried to change the current political climate. They make an effort to reverse the trend and push the tide in another direction. Sometimes in their effort to change their corner of the world, they meet with resistance and hate and are killed along with their goals and ideas. Such is the case of Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin. Sadat was the leader and military hero of Egypt and Rabin the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel. Both leaders played an important role in the formation of their country’s development and status in the world.

A military lieutenant, who obtained a Fatwa (an opinion) approving the assassination, cut down Sadat and several others on the stand during a victory parade on October 6, 1981.

A far right-wing religious Zionist who despised the Oslo Accords signing killed Rabin during a rally supporting the Oslo Accords on November 4, 1995.

Despite the best efforts of people who have a chance to make a difference, there are others who want to create disharmony.


Anwar Sadat

Yitzhak Rabin

(25 December 1918 – 6 October 1981)

Menachem Begin, Jimmy Carter und Anwar Sadat in Camp David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anwar Sadat served as President of Egypt for 11 years and during this time he moved away from the principle of Nasserism by promoting the multi-party government system and changing the economic policy. He was a member of the Free Officers Group that overthrew the Muhammed Ali Dynasty in 1952.

He assumed the Presidency in 1970 after Gamel Abdel Nasser. He led Egypt in the October War in 1973 against Israel. Afterwards he engaged in peace negotiations with Israel and signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1979. This earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. This led to Egypt and Sadat becoming unpopular within the Arab community and the Arab League, despite wide support among Egyptians.

Sadat was breaking away from pan-Arabism espoused by his predecessor, Nasser. In addition, he was moving away from the USSR as an influence and towards a more friendly relationship with the United States. All of these events led to Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli leading a charge toward the VIP stand during the annual victory parade and assassinating Sadat along with several others including a Cuban Ambassador and an Omani General on October 6, 1981.

Vice President Hosni Mubarak and four US military liaison officers were wounded in the barrage of gunfire. Islambouli was sentenced to death and executed in April 1982. Hosni Mubarak assumed the duties as President after the assassination. Sadat’s funeral was attended by three former Presidents (Ford, Carter, Nixon).

(1 March 1922-4 November 1995)

Yitzhak Rabin served two terms as Israeli Prime Minister, from 1974-1977 and 1992-1995, when he was assassinated. He did not finish his policies

Israeli generals Yitzhak Rabin and Yigal Allon in 1949. Česky: Izraelští generálové Jicchak Rabin a Jigal Allon v roce 1949 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

during his second term due to a far right religious Zionist who was angry about Rabin’s peace negotiations. Yigel Amir, a law student, fired several shots at Rabin after a rally in support of the Oslo Accords at the Kings of Israel Square in Tel Aviv on November 4, 1995. Rabin died at the hospital less than an hour later.

Rabin was a fighter for Israeli statehood from the beginning. He rose to take command of the Heral Brigade in the military and served as an Israeli General. Under his command of the IDF, the Israeli gained significant ground against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in the Six Day War in 1967. During his first term as Prime Minister, Rabin successfully ordered the rescue of hostages by an Israeli commando unit after an airline hijacking in Entebbe, Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

According to many theories, the assassin Amir had come to believe that Rabin was a rodef, meaning a “pursuer” who endangered Jewish lives. Amir believed he would be justified under Jewish law by killing Rabin and removing a threat to the Jews. Apparently, this is a misinterpretation of the law. The law applies to removing a “pursuer” where they may be a threat to an individual. Moreover, the law does not apply to elected representatives because if a person removes the elected official, that person would have to remove each voter who elected the government official. The assassin acted under flawed logic and reasoning concerning Jewish law. Thinking about it, most assassination attempts begin under flawed logic to begin with, except in the cases of taking out someone who is evil personified such as Adolf Hitler.

Monument marking the site of the assassination: Ibn Gabirol Street between Tel Aviv City Hall and Gan Ha'ir (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rabin was buried the day after the assassination on November 6, 1995, at the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, where 80 heads of state attended the funeral. A monument to Rabin rests at the location of the assassination. The monument erected with broken rocks that represent the political destruction the assassination brought to the peace process.

In other notes concerning the assassination, Rabin’s pocket carried a blood-stained paper with the lyrics of an Israeli song “Shir Lashalom” (“Song for Peace”). The song was used at the rally and outlines the futility of bringing a dead person back to life. This means that peace should be foremost in everyone’s mind. The Knesset has set the 12th of Heshvan, the assassination date according to the Hebrew calendar, as the memorial day of Rabin. What is your opinion? Make a comment and I will respond.

Why was Egyptian President Anwar Sadat assassinated in 1981? M extremists wanted to start a war with Egypt. J extremists were retaliating for the events at the Munich Olympics. J extremists were unhappy with the loss of territory in the Sinai Peninsula. M extremists felt betrayed by his decision to make peace with Israel.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat was shot by Muslim extremists during a military parade commemorating the 1973 Yom Kippur War against Israel.

Explanation: Islamic extremists assassinate Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, as he reviews troops on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Led by Khaled el Islambouli, a lieutenant in the Egyptian army with connections to the terrorist group Takfir Wal-Hajira, the terrorists, all wearing army uniforms, stopped in front of the reviewing stand and fired shots and threw grenades into a crowd of Egyptian government officials. Sadat, who was shot four times, died two hours later. Ten other people also died in the attack.

Despite Sadat’s incredible public service record for Egypt (he was instrumental in winning the nation its independence and democratizing it), his controversial peace negotiation with Israel in 1977-78, for which he and Menachem Begin won the Nobel Peace Prize, made him a target of Islamic extremists across the Middle East. Sadat had also angered many by allowing the ailing Shah of Iran to die in Egypt rather than be returned to Iran to stand trial for his crimes against the country.

Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi, who sponsored Takfir Wal-Hajira, had engineered his own unsuccessful attempt on Sadat’s life in 1980. Despite the well-known threats on his life, Sadat did not withdraw from the public eye, believing it was important to the country’s well-being that he be open and available.

Before executing their plan, Islambouli’s team of assassins took hits of hashish to honor a long-standing Middle Eastern tradition. As their vehicle passed the reviewing stand, they jumped out and started firing. Vice President Hosni Mubarak was sitting near Sadat but managed to survive the attack. Taking over the country when Sadat died, Mubarak arrestedhundreds of peoplesuspected to have participated in the conspiracy to kill Sadat.

Eventually, charges were brought against 25 men, who went to trial in November. Many of those charged were unrepentant and proudly admitted their involvement. Islambouli and four others were executed, while 17 others were sentenced to prison time.


In 1978, Abu Taleb was elected Speaker of the People's Assembly. When President Anwar El Sadat was assassinated on 6 October 1981, Abu Taleb became Acting President, as the Egyptian constitution ruled that the Speaker would assume that role in the case of a vacancy of the presidential office, pending an election in 60 days. Not being considered a serious candidate for the presidency, he stepped aside after just eight days in favor of Vice-President Hosni Mubarak.

  1. Speaker of the People's Assembly of Egypt elected since November 1978
  2. Member elected of the People's Assembly and Chairman of the Committee of Scientific Researches since 1976.
  3. Vice President of Cairo University 1973–1975.
  4. Legal Advisor to Cairo University 1967–1973.
  5. Legal Advisor to Assiout University 1965–1967.
  6. Head of History and Philosophy of Law Department,Cairo University 1958–1965.
  7. Professorial Chair of Law (Roman Law Department Cairo University).
  8. Dr. Abou-Taleb exerted important efforts to introduce Legal Studies in the Faculty of Islamic Law, El-Azhar University.
  9. He shared with other professors in the introduction of legislation and Islamic Law in Kuwait and Yemen (Kuwait University and Sanaa University) (both branches became separate Faculties later).
  10. He was nominated as Egyptian President after President Sadat's assassination.
  • Head of History of Law Committee.
  • Deputy Chairman of the Young Moslem's Association.
  • Deputy Chairman of the Conference on Islamic Education in Mecca.
  • Member of the Higher Council of Arts and Literature.
  • Member of the Board of Directors of the Legislation and Economics Association.
  • Secretary of the Students Welfare Association.
  • Member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Studies Institute.
  • Member of the National Council of Education.
  • Member of the National Academy of Scientific Research and Technology.
  • Member of the Egyptian Academy of Science.
  • Member of Police Academy Council.
  • Member of the Supreme Ministerial Committee for the Sudanese-Egyptian Political and Economics Federation.
  • Dr. Abou-Taleb is a member of the National Democratic Party's Constituent Committee.

October 6, 1981: President Anwar Al-Sadat of Egypt Is Assassinated in Cairo

October 6, 2015

Aftermath of the Anwar Al-Sadat assassination, in which Egyptian soldiers tended to the wounded on the platform. (Wikimedia Commons)

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On this day in 1981 the Egyptian president, Anwar Al-Sadat, was assassinated by an Islamist as he reviewed a military procession. In an editorial, The Nation objected to the ubiquitous references to Sadat as a “friend” of the United States. The emphasis on the personal relations of international leaders has only grown more pronounced in the three-plus decades since The Nation noticed this literally mystifying trend.

The assassination of Anwar el-Sadat was, of course, sad and bad news, but official U.S. reaction to it was inappropriate and ominous. The frequent recourse to the word “friend” by the officials reacting was the problem. President Ronald Reagan called Sadat a friend. Jimmy Carter of Camp David fame said, incredibly, that Egypt’s dictator was his closest “personal friend.” Nations can have no friends. Allies, yes. Temporary collaborators for limited policy purposes, of course. But the sentimental, media-inspired notion that national policy should have anything to do with friendship is a dangerous delusion. Does peace in the Middle East now depend on Sadat’s successor becoming a pal of Reagan and Begin? Policy must be built on a more solid foundation than personal intimacy with the current occupant of the Pharaoh’s throne. Advancing the Camp David process toward a genuine settlement is the real challenge to American, Arab and Israeli leaders. That would be the appropriate way to memorialize the best qualities of the fallen Egyptian leader. Disturbing as the prospect may be for Reagan and Co., a more popularly based or even a democratic regime may be what they will have to deal with now that Sadat is gone. His successor, Hosni Mubarak, is, unlike Sadat when he took power, a true nonentity. U.S. policy in the Middle East has as its first principle the notion of an anti-Communist triad composed of Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia…Washington must get serious about the Middle East, drop its anti-Soviet crusade and consider the real interests of the people living there. Otherwise the killing will go on.

To mark The Nation’s 150th anniversary, every morning this year The Almanac will highlight something that happened that day in history and how The Nation covered it. Get The Almanac every day (or every week) by signing up to the e-mail newsletter.

Richard Kreitner Twitter Richard Kreitner is a contributing writer and the author of Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union. His writings are at

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When Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem 40 years ago

The Knesset on Tuesday marked the 40 year anniversary of the historic visit by former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel, which paved the way for the peace deal between the two former enemy countries.

On November 20, 1977, Sadat became the first — and so far only — Arab leader to visit Israel and address the Knesset with a call for peace.

Sadat’s visit heralded Israeli-Egyptian talks at Camp David a year later, and a full peace agreement in 1979, just six years after the painful Yom Kippur War.

After arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on November 19, Sadat met with Begin. The next day, he prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, before heading to Israel’s parliament to give his speech (full text here).

“I sincerely tell you that before us today lies the appropriate chance for peace, if we are really serious in our endeavors for peace. It is a chance that time cannot afford once again. It is a chance that, if lost or wasted, the plotter against it will bear the curse of humanity and the curse of history,” Sadat told the Knesset in Arabic.

Photographs from the visit show Sadat deep in conversation with Israeli leaders, flower-adorned schoolchildren waiting in Jerusalem for a glimpse of the Egyptian president, and journalists from around the world frantically dispatching their reports.

Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat Assassinated - HISTORY

Israel Stunned and Anxious Few Arab Nations Mourning

Who Murdered President Sadat?

CAIRO, Oct. 6 -- President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt was shot and killed today by a group of men in military uniforms who hurled hand grenades and fired rifles at him as he watched a military parade commemorating the 1973 war against Israel.

Egypt&aposs treaties and international commitments would be respected. He said the Speaker of Parliament, Sufi Abu Taleb, would serve as interim President pending an election in 60 days.

The assassins&apos bullets ended the life of a man who earned a reputation for making bold decisions in foreign affairs, a reputation based in large part on his decision in 1977 to journey to the camp of Egypt&aposs foe, Israel, to make peace.

Sadat Forged His Own Regime

Regarded as an interim ruler when he came to power in 1970 on the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mr. Sadat forged his own regime and ran Egypt single-handedly. He was bent on moving this impoverished country into the late 20th century, a drive that led him to abandon an alliance with the Soviet Union and embrace the West.

That rule ended abruptly and violently toda y. As jet fighters roared overhead, the killers sprayed the reviewing

Of humble origin, Anwar el-Sadat became a statesman known for daring actions. Obituary, pages A8 and A9. stand with bullets while thousands of horrified people - officials, diplomats and journalists, including this correspondent - looked on.

Killers&apos Identity Not Disclosed

Information gathered from a number of sources indicated that eight persons had been killed and 27 wounded in the attack. Later reports, all unconfirmed, put the toll at 11 dead and 38 wounded.

The authorities did not disclose the identity of the assassins. They were being interrogated, and there were no clear indications whether the attack was to have been part of a coup attempt.

(In Washington, American officials said an army major, a lieutenant and four enlisted men had been involved in the attack. The major and two of the soldiers were killed and the others captured, the officials said.)

The assassination followed a recent crackdown by Mr. Sadat against religious extremists and other political opponents. There were unverifiable reports that some members of the armed forces had also been detained.

Those standing nearby at the parade today said six to eight soldiers riding in a truck towing an artillery piece had broken away from the line of march and walked purposefully toward the reviewing stand. Onlookers thought the procession was part of the pageant. Suddenly, a hand grenade exploded and bursts of rifle fire erupted while French-made Mirage jets screeched overhead.

The 62-year-old leader was rushed to Maadi Military Hospital by helicopter and died several hours later.

Business leaders said President Sadat&aposs assassination underscored the volatility of the Middle East with its vital oil supplies. Page D1. said to have been struck by two bullets. A medical bulletin said he might have been hit by as many as five bullets and shrapnel fragments.

The bulletin said he had no heartbeat when he arrived at the hospital. It attributed his death, at 2:40 P.M. (8:40 A.M. New York time), to &apos&aposviolent nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity, where the left lung and major blood vessels below it were torn.&apos&apos

The death of Mr. Sadat raised serious questions about the direction the nation would now take. At least for the time being, affairs of state are expected to be run largely by Vice President Mubarak, a longtime associate who promptly took over direction of the armed forces after the President died. Egypt&aposs ruling National Democratic Party announced that Vice President Mub arak would be its candidate in the presidential election.

Mr. Mubarek, in his broadcast announcing Mr. Sadat&aposs death seven hours after the assassination, indicated that Egypt would continue to respect the peace treaty with Israel.

&apos&aposI hereby declare,&apos&apos he said, &apos&aposin the name of the great soul passing away and in the name of the people, its constitutional institutions and its armed forces, that we are committed to all charters, treaties, and international obligations that Egypt has concluded.&apos&apos

Security police patrolled Cairo&aposs streets, nearly empty except for some shoppers because of the holiday marking the 1973 war, and government buildings were being closely guarded.

Regular television programming was canceled after the announcement of Mr. Sadat&aposs death and was replaced by readings from the Koran and film clips of his achievements - the 1973 war against Israel, which Mr. Sadat said restored Egyptian dignity after its defeat in 1967, the peace treaty with Israel and other milestones. No film of the attack on the reviewing stand at today&aposs parade was shown on Egyptian television.

Reviewing Stand Awash in Blood

Within seconds of the attack, the reviewing stand was awash in blood. Bemedaled officials dived for cover. Screams and panic followed as guests tried to flee, tipping over chairs. Some were crushed under foot. Others, shocked and stunned, stood riveted.

This correspondent saw one assailant, a stocky, dark-haired man, standing in a half crouch, firing a rifle into the stand used by Mr. Sadat, who was wearing black leather boots and military attire crossed by a green sash.

Some onlookers reported a short, fierce exchange of fire between the killers and Mr. Sadat&aposs security men. Others said the attackers had been overcome by some of the thousands of military men in the area.

While spectators sought a way out, the reviewing stand for a few seconds was nearly empty. Flanked on each side by displays of sleek missiles, the stand was a blood-soaked horror.

Mr. Sadat was promptly carried away, but others felled by bullets remained writhing on the ground. A few did not move. One man, seriously wounded, was slumped over a railing separating Mr. Sadat and his party from the parade about 20 yards away.

Among those hit was reported to be Bishop Samuel, whom Mr. Sadat had named one of five clerics to run the Coptic Christians&apos affairs after he deposed their Pope, Sheunda III. The bishop was later reported to have died.

Others said to have died were two presidential aides - Mohammed Rashwan, the official photographer, and Sayed Marei, a confidant. The Belgian Ambassador, Claude Ruelle, was seriously wounded, and three American military officers were hurt.

Egypt&aposs Defense Minister, Gen. Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala, who had opened the parade with a speech, stood in the midst of the carnage. His face was bleeding, his gold-braided uniform was blood-soaked. He waved away attempts to assist him and began issuing orders.

Soldiers wearing red berets and perfectly creased uniforms promptly joined hands to cordon off the scene of the attack, widening the circle as more soldiers arrived. Some of the soliders were sobbing, a few screamed hysterically, others looked dumbfounded.

Overhead, the air show continued. Planes looped and swerved and dived and arced and sent colorful sprays of vapor over the pandemonium below. The roar of engines drowned out the screams and the clatter of chairs.

Camel Corps on Parade

The parade ground, which had witnessed a joyful procession of Egypt&aposs most advanced arms as well as the colorful camel corps, with its turbaned soldiers, and the cavalry, with its sleek, elegant Arabian horses, was littered with little Egyptian souvenir flags dropped by panicked guests. As members of military bands scattered, the brilliant sun beamed off shiny, yellow tubas and other brass instruments.

The Egyptian military establishment has long been regarded as the ingredient needed by any leader to remain in power. Diplomatic and military analysts said that Mr. Sadat had the support of the military and that it assured the stability of his regime and permitted him to take daring steps, such as the peace overture to Israel and, finally, the peace treaty. In the absence of information, it was hard to tell whether the assassins represented a disenchantment with Mr. Sadat within the military.

Speculation abounded. Some thought the attackers, who many felt must have kno wn that they were on a suicide mission, might be Moslem fundamentalis ts opposed to the alliance with Israel and to Mr. Sadat&aposs recen t crackdown.

About a month ago, he ordered the arrest of some 1,500 Coptic and Moslem extremists, along with some of his political opponents. He said they had fomented sectarian strife and endangered his efforts to bring democracy to Egypt.

A devout Moslem, Mr. Sadat was harsh toward fundamentalist groups, such as the Moslem Brotherhood and the Islamic Association. He banned both groups, calling them illegal. He said that he would not tolerate mixing religion and politics and that these groups were using mosques to denounce him.

Arrest of Some Military Rumored

The published names of those arrested in the crackdown did not include those of military personnel. But there were reports that some of those detained were in the armed forces.

After Mr. Sadat&aposs helicopter had left the scene, diplomats rushed to their limousines. Soldiers cleared the grounds and drove away the stunned spectators. Ambulances wailed, women clutching their children raced away. And the airshow above continued.

Early in the parade, a rocketlike object had been launched. It rained down Egyptian flags and portraits of Mr. Sadat hanging from tiny parachutes that were whipped by the wind. Most of them floated over a nearby housing development called Nasser City.

As the grounds were being cleared, one of the parachuted portraits was seen hanging from a flag pole on which it had become impaled in landing. The portrait of Mr. Sadat had been torn by the sharp tip of the Egyptian flag that was fluttering from it.


Following the Camp David Accords, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. But the subsequent 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty was received with controversy among Arab nations, particularly the Palestinians. Egypt's membership in the Arab League was suspended (and not reinstated until 1989). Α] PLO Leader Yasser Arafat said "Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last." Β] In Egypt, various jihadist groups, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, used the Camp David Accords to rally support for their cause. Γ] Previously sympathetic to Sadat's attempt to integrate them into Egyptian society, Δ] Egypt's Islamists now felt betrayed and publicly called for the overthrow of the Egyptian president and the replacement of the nation's system of government with a government based on Islamic theocracy. Δ]

The last months of Sadat's presidency were marked by internal uprising. Sadat dismissed allegations that the rioting was incited by domestic issues, believing that the Soviet Union was recruiting its regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite an uprising that would eventually force him out of power. Following a failed military coup in June 1981, Sadat ordered a major crackdown that resulted in the arrest of numerous opposition figures. Though Sadat still maintained high levels of popularity in Egypt, it has been said that he was assassinated "at the peak" of his unpopularity. Ε]

Egyptian Islamic Jihad [ edit | edit source ]

Earlier in his presidency, Islamists had benefited from the 'rectification revolution' and the release from prison of activists jailed under Nasser Ζ] but Sadat's Sinai treaty with Israel enraged Islamists, particularly the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to interviews and information gathered by journalist Lawrence Wright, the group was recruiting military officers and accumulating weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order" in Egypt. Chief strategist of El-Jihad was Abbud al-Zumar, a colonel in the military intelligence whose "plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country." Η]

In February 1981, Egyptian authorities were alerted to El-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information. In September, Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Jihad members, but also the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes. ⎖] All non-government press was banned as well. ⎗] The round up missed a Jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who would succeed in assassinating Anwar Sadat that October. ⎘]

According to Tala'at Qasim, ex-head of the Gama'a Islamiyya interviewed in Middle East Report, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the "Islamic Group", that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin (Islambouli). Members of the Group's 'Majlis el-Shura' ('Consultative Council') – headed by the famed 'blind shaykh' – were arrested two weeks before the killing, but they did not disclose the existing plans and Islambouli succeeded in assassinating Sadat. ⎙]

"President Sadat was such a man…The impact of his loss is incalculably great but so too is the gift of his example.”

Nixon had himself played a key role in aiding the launch of the peace process, mediating the Sinai I disengagement agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1974

Israel and Egypt (with its Arab allies) had been engaged in hostilities for three decades, and this resulted in four wars in twenty four years. The hatreds in the region were fierce, and the constant conflicts seemed interminable. The last of these, the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, was launched by the Arabs as a surprise, and they had initial successes before Israel emerged victorious. Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat’s own brother was killed in that war. No one foresaw peace as a possibility.

But President Sadat saw the wars as a disastrous drag on the Egyptian economy and knew that they stood as a barrier to its receiving aid from the United States and many NATO countries. They also tended to throw the Middle East into the arms of the Russians, whom Sadat distrusted. Sadat had no intention of allowing Egypt to become a Soviet satellite.

Despite friction with his Syrian allies, Sadat signed the Sinai I (1974) and Sinai II (1975) disengagement agreements with Israel which stated that the conflicts between the countries “shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means”, and led to the partial withdrawal of Israeli forces in the Sinai, the creation of a U.N. buffer zone in their place, and the implementation of multiple U.S. stations in the Sinai. The also secured for Egypt large foreign assistance commitments. The first of these agreements were mediated by President Richard M. Nixon and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the second by President Gerald R. Ford and Kissinger, who with thus played key roles in aiding the launch of the peace process.

Jimmy Carter became President of the United States on January 20, 1977. Israeli and Arab resistance was slowing Sadat’s hoped-for progress, so on November 9, 1977, Sadat made a stunning, dramatic gesture, one that left the world in shock: He would personally journey to Jerusalem to address the Israeli Knesset (parliament) to seek a permanent peace settlement between Israel and Egypt! The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, rose to the occasion, and ignoring those who saw Sadat’s move as some kind of trick, cordially invited him to address the Knesset in a message passed to Sadat via the US ambassador to Egypt. This was something of a surprise, as Begin had a reputation as a hard-liner, and some expected him to reject Sadat’s overture. On November 19, 1977, Sadat arrived for the groundbreaking three-day visit, which launched the first peace process between Israel and an Arab state. He met with Begin and spoke before Israel’s parliament, as the world looked on, in utter disbelief, and glued to the television. The astonished, approving reaction of ordinary Israelis and Egyptians who watched Sadat and Begin on live television was itself of importance. The sight of the two leaders facing each other in open, honest debate changed attitudes at the street levels of both countries. Much of the change came from Sadat’s choice of words. “The October War,” he said, “should be the last war.”

The visit was, however, met with outrage in much of the Arab world. Despite this, Sadat continued to pursue peace with Israel. However, a reciprocal visit by Begin was unsuccessful, and no progress was made toward peace. Then Rosalynn Carter, the U.S. first lady, suggested to her husband President Carter that he invite Sadat and Begin to Camp David, where the relative privacy and seclusion might provide a setting for a breakthrough.

Both Sadat and Begin trusted the United States to be an honest broker, and the two leaders accepted Carter’s invitation. The summit began on September 5, 1978, and lasted for 13 days. Carter preferred that the three men work together in private sessions in a small office at Aspen, his cabin at Camp David. Carter compiled a document that encompassed a resolution of the major issues, presented the proposals to each leader in separate meetings, assessed their comments, and redrafted the manuscript some two dozen times, shuttling the manuscript back and forth for their review. The Camp David Accords, signed on September 17, were the first peace agreement between the state of Israel and one of its Arab neighbors, and laid the groundwork for diplomatic and commercial relations.

In a ceremony at the White House on March 26, 1979, Sadat and Begin signed the historic peace treaty it was considered the diplomatic triumph of the the era. President Carter oversaw the signing, and untold millions watched on television. The peace treaty formally ended the state of war that had existed between the two countries. Israel agreed to fully withdraw from Sinai, and Egypt promised to establish normal diplomatic relations between the two countries and open the Suez Canal to Israeli ships (which until then had been banned from the waterway). These provisions were duly carried out. Sadat was vilified for this in many Arab quarters, and Egypt was expelled from the Arab League, but Sadat was determined to end hostilities and move into a better future. He was well aware that his courage might well cost him his life, as he received death threats and some predicted his assassination.

For their achievement, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for Peace. Then, on October 6, 1981, extremists assassinated Sadat in Cairo. He is widely recognized today as a martyr to peace, and when we hear the phrase “blessed are the peacemakers”, his image immediately springs to mind. Despite the tragedy, the peace process continued without Sadat, and in 1982 Egypt formally established diplomatic relations with Israel. This led to, among many other benefits, increased tourism in the region.

Nixon, who with Kissinger got this process going, wrote this letter to Mrs. Sadat, saying her husband is immortal. Typed letter signed, on Nixon’s letterhead, October 12, 1982, with salutation in his hand to Sadat’s widow Jihan el-Sadat, on the occasion of the honoring of President Sadat by the American Society of Travel Agents, as Sadat’s efforts for peace did so much for tourism the region. He was to be awarded its 1st International Peace and Tourism Award. “I am honored to join in this tribute to Egypt’s great President, and also to you, his great First Lady.

“Men are mortal but the spirit of a man of peace is immortal because it lives on in the millions he has inspired. President Sadat was such a man. In the year since his voice was silenced events in the Middle East have only proven the wisdom of the strong, measured, deliberate way he sought peace. The impact of his loss is incalculably great but so too is the gift of his example.”

Donald Reynolds was executive director of the American Tourism Society (later the American Society of Travel Agents). Under his leadership, ATSA facilitated travel to Russia and the newly independent republics of the USSR, and later expanded its outreach to the Middle East. His efforts in Egypt brought him in contact with Mrs. Sadat and they became friends. She gave this letter to him, and we obtained it from his heirs. It has never before been offered for sale.