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Bernard Lewis at 90

Reuel Marc Gerecht’s meditation on the career of Bernard Lewis is a moving tribute to Gerecht’s teacher: “The last Orientalist.” Gerecht concludes:

Many years ago, when I was still an Iran-watcher in the CIA’s clandestine service, I thanked Lewis, who had been my teacher at Princeton, for his writings and the long conversations that he’d so generously had with me. I could respect Iranian holy warriors, who then interested the United States government more than their Sunni counterparts, because the professor had helped me to see them as they really were. He’d taught me how to time travel–to reach back and touch the events, people, and literature that still define so much of the Muslim soul. For a case officer, who feeds on the strengths and weaknesses of foreigners, there was no more valuable gift. With other students of the Middle East and Islam, with the common man who is just curious, and with Democratic and Republican officials in Washington who try to see beyond our borders, and who often are not blessed with keen historical insight, Lewis has been similarly generous and kind. We are all in his debt, and in his shadow. Kheli tashakkor mikonam, professor. Happy birthday, Bernard.

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