New to the Oman Library’s shelves is a distinct collection, donated by Sallie Lewis on behalf of her late husband, Ambassador Samuel Lewis. This new addition brings a unique set of stories to the library, with many works containing signatures and personal notes from well known figures who worked closely with the ambassador during his career in the foreign service.

Life in service

            The works in this new collection reflect pieces of Lewis’ 30-year-career, particularly in his role as ambassador to Israel from 1977 to 1985. During his eight years in this position, Lewis participated in numerous significant events in the country, such as the visit of the first Arab leader, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, to Israel. This crucial moment paved the way for future negotiations, with the Camp David peace talks of 1978 taking place the following year. Lewis played an integral role in both of these events, as he assisted in building the relationship between Israel’s newly elected Prime Minister Menachem Begin and the United States. In an oral history for The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in 1998, Lewis explained his role in advising President Jimmy Carter on how to work with and understand Begin, which proved to be a vital skill, as “Carter’s team viewed Begin with wariness, considering the recently elected Israeli leader a confrontational hard-liner.”[1] Lewis personally suggested that they “approach this meeting not with the intention of laying down the law to him” but to “establish a real working relationship with him and try to persuade him over little by little to being someone we could work with in the peace diplomacy.”[2] Famously, Lewis proposed “with Begin, honey would get us a lot farther than vinegar.”[3]

            Following his years in Israel, Ambassador Lewis went on to serve as the President of the United States Institute for Peace and also as the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department during the Clinton administration.

Featured books

            As such an accomplished and influential diplomat, it is no surprise that books from his collection would reflect his many years of service. The collection primarily focuses on his time as ambassador to Israel, whether it be a memoir of a public figure or analysis of historic events.

Some of the more notable books come from senior officials involved with the Egypt-Israel peace negotiations, such as Hard Choices: Critical Years in America’s Foreign Policy, a personal account by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that was published in 1983. The book features a personal note from Secretary Vance:

“To Sam -- Valued friend and valiant companion on the barricades, without whom neither Camp David nor The Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty could have been hammered out. With affection and heartfelt thanks, Cy.”

            Lewis’ collection also features perspectives from the Israeli side of the conflict, such as Breakthrough: A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israel Peace Negotiations, a memoir of Moshe Dayan’s role in the Camp David negotiations. Signatures from several Israeli prime ministers are also featured in the collection, including Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin in his memoir, White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, which tells the story of his time held in Soviet labor camps in the 1940s.

            Also included in the collection is the signature of Carter in his memoir, Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President, as well as two books by former Israeli President Shimon Peres, From These Men: Seven Founders of the State of Israel and The New Middle East, and several works by former Israeli President Ezer Weizman.

            Presidents and prime ministers are not the only authors featured in Ambassador Lewis’ collection. There are also books from people such as Bruce Laingen, who wrote Yellow Ribbon: The Secret Journal of Bruce Laingen, a day-by-day chronicling of his time as the most senior official held hostage in the Iran Hostage Crisis from 1979-1981. In Thurston Clarke’s book about the 1946 bombing at the King David Hotel, By Blood and Fire: The Attack on the King David Hotel, there is a signature that reads “with the compliments, Joseph Heksch, General Manager, King David Hotel.”

Visiting the collection

             Ambassador Lewis’ books are not available to checkout; however, guests are welcome to enjoy the collection during regular business hours in the Oman Library. With over 150 books to explore on a wide variety of topics related to Israel, these works offer both the stories printed on the pages as well as those handwritten by the authors.

[1] Matt Schudel, “Samuel W. Lewis, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, dies at 83,” Washington Post, March 12, 2014.

[2] Samuel Lewis, interview by Peter Jessup, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, August 9, 1998.

[3] Ibid