“Hello Schmuel,” I used to say to Sam Lewis, which made him laugh. The former U.S. Ambassador to Israel (1977) was not Jewish, but he remained a lifelong friend of Israel and of Jews and a friend of Palestinians—the ultimate public diplomat. He was a peacemaker—a man who bridged cultures, religions, histories and believed deeply in the power of negotiations to end stalemates and deadlocks. He devoted his life to the Middle East and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and he understood the power of people to move policies.
Sam Lewis died today at the age of 84. He was born October 1, 1930, in Houston, Tex. He received an A.B. degree from Yale University in 1952 and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1954. He joined the Foreign Service in 1954 and served as consular officer at Naples. From 1955 to 1959, he was a political officer and acting principal officer in Florence. Sam went on to great heights—Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, head of State Department Planning, and then President of the United States Institute of Peace where he remains a revered figure.
What I will miss about Sam Lewis is not just his gift of diplomacy and his ability to reach out to publics across divides. I will miss his smile, his laugh, his wit, and his wisdom. To me, Sam Lewis remains “Schmuel,” — a Mensch and a mentor—and will be sorely missed. My heartfelt sympathies to his wife, Sally, and his family which includes many nations and people.