As a lonely man mundanely walked up a short ramp from a minivan to a door before disappearing from view, a country experienced one of its greatest moments of infamy.
Crossing the threshold into Ma’asiyahu prison in Ramle on Monday, Ehud Olmert became the first former Israeli prime minister to be incarcerated for criminal activity.
After waiting for hours, a gaggle of television crews and photographers jostled for a shot of history-in-the-making as the minivan carrying Olmert and his security detail backed into a small dropoff parking space in front of the institution Olmert will call home for at least 19 months as he serves time for his bribery conviction.
Mindful of the former premier’s wish to preserve what is left of his legacy, the minivan tried to block, as much as possible, the view of Olmert entering the prison, and the closest the legion of 70 to 80 photographers could get to a glimpse of Olmert was some 15-20 meters from his back and possibly a side few as he walked the ramp.
It was the climax of a series of other unprecedented scenes that have characterized the former prime minister’s legal sagas that included Olmert’s submission of former Mossad chief Meir Dagan and former UK prime minister Tony Blair as character witnesses in an attempt to secure a reduced sentence and the sentencing hearing during which he lectured Tel Aviv District Court Judge David Rozen over the conviction and banged the table while dismissing his authority.
But there was no audience left for him inside the prison. There was no media legion. A small group of five guards at some point grew to around 11, but they hardly gave off a sense of the enormity of the moment.
For the 10 seconds or less that he was visible, there was an explosive buzz and inability to believe that transpired through the assembled crowd of onlookers and journalists as the assembled photographers and videographers took pictures and recorded footage at a rapid-fire pace.
The contrast could not have been more drastic.
Outside the prison Olmert was the former prime minister with the whole world watching and climbing on top of each other (literally) to get a glimpse from the prison gate. Inside, he was just a lonely man walking up a ramp.