NEW YORK - John Wallach, a foreign correspondent whose closeup views of Middle East violence inspired him to gather teenagers from warring lands at a serene camp in Maine called Seeds of Peace has died. He was 59.
Wallach, who died Wednesday, lost a long battle with lung cancer at his Manhattan home.
"With the Seeds of Peace, John pierced the future, because he concluded that today's adults were not succeeding in finding a peace process. And he thought maybe it'll be the next generation that'll make it," said CNN commentator Bernard Kalb, who had covered the State Department alongside Wallach.
It was the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center - terrorism that left an even bigger gap between Arabs and Jews - that convinced Wallach to give up journalism, after serving as foreign editor for Hearst Newspapers from 1968 to 1994.
"I was disturbed by the dehumanization of the Palestinians," he told students at Middlebury College in Vermont, his alma mater, in a 1999 commencement address. "After all, the Jews were dehumanized by the Nazis. That made it easier to kill them."
Wallach, the son of German Jews who had fled the Nazis, proposed to then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres that Israeli, Egyptian and Palestinian youths meet on neutral soil - in the United States.
The Israeli and Egyptian governments and officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization agreed to the plan. Each summer since 1993, the Maine woods have welcomed hundreds of Arab and Israeli teenagers who meet their so-called enemies face to face, in what is often a wrenching experience. They also share normal American camp activities.
"He used to say to people all the time, 'Make one friend.' Because he understood that a true friendship - even if it's only one friend - can make a world of difference," said Koby Sadan, a 21-year-old Israeli who is a counselor this year after participating two other summers.
Wallach and his wife, Janet Wallach, had spent months visiting Israeli communities and Palestinian refugee camps and sitting night after night with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for books on the Arab-Israeli conflict called "Still Small Voices," "The New Palestinians" and "Arafat: In the Eyes of the Beholder."
But Wallach also had the trust of top Israeli leaders for decades.
Two years ago, Seeds of Peace launched the Balkans Initiative to include young people from Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, as well as a program for Turkish and Greek children caught in the battle over the divided island of Cyprus.
Seeds now has 1,600 graduates from about 20 violence-torn lands, including the 165 current participants - among them Palestinians, Israelis, Indians, Pakistanis and Afghans.
As a journalist, Wallach broke several stories related to the Iran-Contra affair and the CIA's covert mining of Nicaraguan waters, receiving the National Press Club's highest honor.
But it was for his work with Seeds of Peace that he was awarded the United Nations' UNESCO Peace Prize in 1996 and was honored by Jordan's King Hussein with the Legion of Honor of the Hashemite Kingdom.
"John was a fighter - he fought for peace and he fought cancer," said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. "He will be missed. May his memory be blessed."
In addition to his wife, Wallach leaves a sister, two sons, and a nephew and niece.
Viewing is planned for Friday morning at New York's Riverside Memorial Chapel.