I met Tom Kully on a cold, wintry Friday night in Jerusalem over a decade ago. A small group was gathering at the Citadel to walk over to a nearby home for dinner. By the time we reached our destination, I felt as if Tom and I were old friends. I had met someone who understood the subtleties of the Arab-Israeli dispute and American policy toward the Middle East better than most specialists I knew. He was inquisitive and curious, always asking questions, probing to find a better answer than had already been given. His alternative ideas were always challenging and thought-provoking.
And he was such a wonderful listener; Tom would listen so carefully that he could see through any weaknesses or contradictions. I appreciated that Tom wasn’t shy about saying if he thought you were wrong.
Tom and I became close friends: we met in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC, often at Israel Policy Forum functions, but just as often privately. We discussed the latest political and strategic developments affecting the US, Israel, and the Middle East. Often, Tom, as a vociferous reader, had read the article I was going to read, something that had just come out, pointing to the latest political developments with great insight and acumen.
Before he became too ill to travel extensively, I invited Tom to attend an international conference I was running. I was amazed at how enthusiastic he was to meet other participants from countries throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Tom was a natural at such gatherings: his thirst for knowledge, information, the perspectives of others was contagious and stimulating. Many of the regular participants commented about how he had enhanced discussions and contributed to the positive atmosphere of the conference.
Of course, we would often mention the irony that the initials of his illness and the organization that had introduced us were the same: IPF. And I saw the same qualities in Tom as he fought his disease as I had seen in him when he was trying to find ways to bring peace to the Middle East. His determination and fortitude permeated everything that he involved himself in, and were a model for all those of us who were privileged to see him in action. Tom persevered until he was so cruelly taken from us.
We will all miss him. I know that I will miss his penetrating, probing mind and the camaraderie he offered me. Perhaps even more, I will miss his kindness, his concern, and the generosity of spirit and the philanthropic attitude that he embodied.
Tom’s memory will live on in the Israel Policy Forum, and we all extend our deepest condolences to his family.