‘I am optimistic about the future’

Sylvan Adams reflects on his Zionist roots, his goals and his plans

 SYLVAN ADAMS: ‘I got my sense of Zionism and connection to Israel from my parents (photo credit: ZIV KOREN)
SYLVAN ADAMS: ‘I got my sense of Zionism and connection to Israel from my parents
(photo credit: ZIV KOREN)

Sylvan Adams is justifiably well-known to Jerusalem Post readers for his efforts to showcase what he calls “the face of normal Israel” to the world by bringing major sports and entertainment events to the Holy Land, showcasing the country to hundreds of millions of TV viewers around the world.  

Yet, unlike most pro-Israel philanthropists, Adams made aliyah, spends most of his time in Israel, speaks Hebrew, shops in the shuk and calls himself “a proud Israeli.”

Speaking with The Jerusalem Post while on a recent visit to his native Montreal, Adams reflects on his Zionist roots, his goals in promoting Israel to the world and his plans for Israel’s 75th anniversary in May 2023.

CHAMPIONS TROPHY ceremony: With soccer superstar Lionel Messi (Credit: SEFI MEGRIZO)CHAMPIONS TROPHY ceremony: With soccer superstar Lionel Messi (Credit: SEFI MEGRIZO)

“I got my sense of Zionism and connection to Israel from my parents,” says Adams. His parents, Holocaust survivors, spent time in Israel during the early years of the state and implanted a love of Israel in their son. “My father fought in the War of Independence, and my mother was refused entry to Israel and spent six months in an internment camp in Cyprus before the state was declared in 1948.” Adams himself met his British-born wife while volunteering in a kibbutz in the 1980s. “For us, making aliyah was coming full circle and expressing aliyah in the purest way – with our feet,” he says earnestly.

Adams and his wife moved to Israel in 2016, and they enjoy the challenges of living in Israel. “Not all of the challenges are as simple as they look,” he says. “The little challenges that one has in moving to a different country stimulate your creativity.”

WITH PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the opening of Sylvan Adams Emergency Hospital at Ichilov(Credit: Jenny Yerushalmi, spokeswoman for Sourasky Medical Center)WITH PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid at the opening of Sylvan Adams Emergency Hospital at Ichilov(Credit: Jenny Yerushalmi, spokeswoman for Sourasky Medical Center)

In Adams’s case, the challenge of presenting the positive face of Israel provided him with an opportunity to make a positive impact. He quickly became known as Israel’s “self-appointed ambassador-at-large,” arranging Israel’s hosting of the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia Grand Tour bicycle race in 2018, bringing Madonna to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv in 2019 and sponsoring Israel’s hosting of the French Super Cup (Trophée des Champions) in Tel Aviv this past July between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and NC Nantes, which brought soccer superstars Lionel Messi, Neymar and Sergio Ramos to the Holy Land. These are just a few of the many events that Adams has brought to Israel.

He owns the Israel – Premier Tech professional cycling team, the first team from Israel to compete at the highest level of its sport, including cycling’s most famous race, the Tour de France, which carries the good name of Israel outside its borders as well.

Promoting Israel to the world, explains Adams, has led to a sharp increase in tourism. “My favorite metric for measuring the effect of my activities is in the growth of tourism,” he notes. “The stuff I am doing on a large scale – getting into the living rooms of hundreds of millions of people – moves the needle on Israeli tourism.” Adams cites that Israel led the world in tourism growth from 2018 to 2019, after the worldwide broadcast of the first stages of the Giro d’Italia from Israel.

TRAINING WITH the Israel Premier Tech National Cycling Team. (Credit: NOA ARNON)TRAINING WITH the Israel Premier Tech National Cycling Team. (Credit: NOA ARNON)

Though the pandemic put a damper on travel worldwide in 2020 and 2021, tourists have returned, and Adams is optimistic that his efforts are bearing fruit. Adams notes that in 2019, Israel attracted 4.5 million tourists, its highest number ever. “The challenge is to bring it to 10 million,” he says. “I think we can do it. We are a most interesting country, and we have a lot to offer.”

Referring to the French Super Cup, he asks rhetorically, “How did this soccer game move the needle? In a couple of ways. The game was seen by 400 million fans of French soccer, and Messi, Neymar and Ramos [star players for the PSG squad] tweeted positive comments about Israel to their hundreds of millions of social media followers.”

Adams arranged for the soccer players to meet with children from the Save a Child’s Heart program, which offers life-saving saving heart surgery to Israeli and Palestinian children as well as children from developing nations at the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. “They got to see the amazing program that shows off Israel’s big heart and the contributions we are making in the world,” he says proudly, “and when they were tweeting to their hundreds of millions of fans, it was really priceless in terms of its value.” Adams adds that he views his work with the Save a Child’s Heart program, which also provides mobile teams operating on children in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, as the ultimate expression of “tikkun olam,” repairing the world. “We do it because it is our duty to do so and help those kids.”

‘I bring an outsider’s perspective to this beautiful Israeli miracle that we have

SYLVAN ADAMS

The French Super Cup at Bloomfield was also notable for Adams’s efforts to spread positive feeling to Israeli children of all backgrounds. “We gave away a thousand tickets to a group of Arab and Jewish children from Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he says. “Everyone is a crazy soccer fan in Israel – and the kids absolutely loved attending the game. This is who we are and what we do. We try to spread goodwill and good cheer amongst our youth and hopefully build a better society and future for everybody.”

The next Adams-sponsored event is the Middle Eastern Regional Ironman Championship, which will take place in Tiberias on November 25. The Ironman is the marquee brand of the sport of triathlon, consisting of a 3.86-km. (2.4-mile) swim, a 180.25-km. (112-mile) bicycle ride and a 42.20-km. (26.22-mile) marathon. “We are hoping to see competitors from our region coming for the first time to Israel and using sport to build bridges between the people of our region,” says Adams.

While he has not announced his upcoming projects beyond the Ironman Championship, Adams says he is utilizing sports diplomacy to cement new relationships that have been created as a result of the Abraham Accords. “We have great partners, and we will be hearing more about them. Stay tuned,” he teases.

Adams, one of the few Israelis invited to the signing of the Abraham Accords in September 2020, emphasizes that his support of the accords is non-partisan, and he has worked effectively with Democrats and Republicans in the United States to further its progress. “I have a new friend in US Ambassador Tom Nides,” he says. “We are collaborating on things to strengthen ties in the region. I can’t mention projects yet, but we will be announcing some positive things.”

Similarly, Adams interacts efficiently with politicians on both sides of the aisle in Israel. “I have good relations with everyone, and I think that everyone recognizes that the projects are beneficial to the country. I believe in the good nature and patriotism of our leaders and their sincerity and desire to promote the country.”

While advocating for Israel to the outside world is an essential part of his activities, Sylvan Adams has provided for his fellow Israeli citizens as well. In July, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital inaugurated the Sylvan Adams Emergency Hospital, the largest and most modern emergency room facility in the world. Both Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog attended the dedication ceremony opening the facility, signaling the significance and importance of this addition to the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

The three-story 8,000-sq.m. facility incorporates a number of new technologies, including a system to allow patients to self-register using facial recognition; self-triage, which enables patients to check their own temperature, blood pressure, pulse and blood oxygen saturation before being assigned a medical professional for treatment; mobile robots, which assist patients in navigating the emergency hospital as well as departments outside the facility; and an app that will provide real-time reports to the patient about their status.

Sylvan Adams is planning major events to mark Israel’s upcoming 75th birthday. “We are working on some really good stuff, but we are keeping them under wraps at the moment,” he smiles. “It is a miracle to think that this country was created 75 years ago. It was built out of nothing other than spirit and values and the fact that we built this super-modern country and all of our contributions to the world, most recently during the pandemic, when Israel was the world laboratory for Pfizer. It’s remarkable that we are bringing so much to the rest of the world,” he enthuses.

Reminiscing about his aliyah, Adams says, “People used to tell me when I first arrived in Israel, that I used to inject a note of optimism, and they said, ‘Sylvan, I love to be around you, because you are so positive.’ I think I bring an outsider’s perspective to this beautiful Israeli miracle that we have.”

Six years after his aliyah, he continues to be proud of his adopted homeland. “I think we have a lot to be proud of. I think that Israelis see the smaller picture on a day-to-day level, but when you take a bird’s-eye view from 10,000 meters and look at what we have accomplished, it is a miracle and a remarkable thing. I think Israelis and all Jews should be proud.”

This article was written in cooperation with Sylvan Adams.