JERUSALEM (May. 15)
“Trees are to Sally and me the right way to remember Israel and to be remembered in Israel,” U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis told a group of high-ranking friends assembled on a mountainside outside Jerusalem today to honor him as his eight-year tour of duty in Israel nears its end.
Lewis, who returns to the U.S. at the end of this month, spoke in response to the dedication of a forest and picnic area in the names of himself and his wife Sally Lewis. The site is the Jewish National Fund’s American Independence Park at Nes Harim. He said the trees would be one more reason for them to come back to Israel on visits. Another reason, he said, would be to celebrate with the Israelis the “next peace treaty” Israel signs with its neighbors.
Premier Shimon Peres, one of the leaders attending the ceremony, hailed Lewis as a “brilliant Ambassador and a warm friend” who served both America and Israel in “difficult and complicated times,” always with utmost tact and understanding.
‘THE WHOLE NATION REGRETS IT’
“I think it is the first time in the history of the Holy Land that a High Commissioner departs and the whole nation regrets it,” Peres said jocularly. He was alluding to accasional references by opposition politicians to the American envoy as the “High Commissioner.” Palestine under the Mandate, was governed by a High Commissioner appointed by the British Colonial Office.
Others at the ceremony included Leon Dulzin, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives; Cabinet ministers Gad Yaacobi, Gideon Patt and Moshe Arens–the latter a former Israeli Ambassador to Washington; Moshe Rivlin, chairman of the JNF Board; and Mayor Shlomo Lehat of Tel Aviv where the U.S. Embassy is located.
Lewis said: “I feel very sad about leaving, but I feel a little bit better about leaving today. This forest in our honor is a permanent pledge that we will be able to come back often and have a tree to lie under. And we will.” He added, “I’m very happy that, since I have to leave sometime, I do so when our relations are so close and good.”
Peres said: “Sam is a brilliant Ambassador for his country and a warm friend for our people. You have managed to bring our two nations to the summit and the peak of our relationship. For that reason you are sincerely appreciated and deeply beloved, with Sally standing at your side as an ambassador in her own right, conquering the hearts of so many people.”