NEW YORK (Aug. 1)
The American Jewish community and leaders of Israel’s diplomatic corps in the United States paid tribute Monday to Samuel Lewis, who retired last month after eight years of service as Washington’s Ambassador to Israel.
At a reception in his honor given by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at its headquarters here, Lewis and his wife, Sally, were hailed by Conference chairman Kenneth Bialkin as “true friends of Israel who left an indelible mark on the Jewish people and the Jewish state, who served longer than any U.S. ambassador in Israel’s history and who won the respect and affection of all Israel.” He added:
“They served our country — for truly Sam and Sally are a team — with understanding and warmth, earning our lasting trust and our enduring respect for the way they carried out their task. Even when there were differences between Jerusalem and Washington, Sam and Sally Lewis profoundly understood the powerful and indissoluble links that bind Israel and America.”
In his impromptu remarks, Lewis described the “roller-coaster relationship between Washington and Jerusalem — from love feasts to dramatic confrontations, from ceremonies of peace with Egypt to arguments over the war in Lebanon,” during his eight years in Israel. He continued: “Today I believe I can say the relationship between Israel and the United States is stronger, more solid and more realistic than it has ever been before.”
Citing some of the reasons for his belief in Israel’s future, “even at this moment of low morale and malaise, and even with all its unsolved problems of economic and physical security and the issue of the territorities,” Lewis declared:
“I have been deeply moved by Israel’s commitment to Zionism and to democracy, by the dedication and patriotism of its young people, by the noble struggle its people are waging to live in dignity and in peace.
“But above all, it is the human quality of Israel’s people that drew us to and kept us in that land — the friends we made, the arguments we had, the joys and sorrows we shared, the genuine-ness of the Israelis we met — their ‘up front’ approach and their ‘down home’ ways.” He concluded: “these are some of the reasons that Sally and I are hooked on Israel, and why we intend to keep going back.”