The Chilean businessman Leonardo Farkas, 56 years old, visited the Kotel in Jerusalem on Thursday under heavy security.
After one of the people there saw and recognized him, a crowd gathered around him and he pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket and began handing them out to the people around him.
A video of the incident that circulated on social media on Thursday shows Farkas at the Kotel square while he handed out what looked like $100 bills to the crowd. The 56-year-old didn't look too troubled by the commotion around him and even let himself be especially generous to the crowd.
Farkas' parents were Hungarian Jews who emigrated to South America from Transylvania in 1939. In the past he donated hundreds of millions of Pesos to a fundraising campaign for disabled children.
Leonardo Farkas: A known Jewish philanthropist
He is known to contribute to many other charitable organizations like "March of the Living," an annual educational program bringing students from around the world to a trip to Poland to learn about the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
תיעוד בלעדי ב-@kikarhashabat תחת אבטחה כבדה - המיליונר היהודי לאונרדו פרקש הגיע היום לתפילה בכותל המערבי וחילק צדקה לנוכחים שהתגודדו סביבו ברחבה • צפוצילום: י. ר. pic.twitter.com/OGXdDSLWLy— איציק אוחנה (@ok125125) June 22, 2023
The businessman, who has a bright-yellow mop of long wavy hair and a penchant for throwing flashy parties with celebrity musical acts, was a pianist and bar singer in Las Vegas and on cruise ships in his 20s, sharing stages with Tom Jones and Julio Iglesias.
Farkas returned to Chile in 2005 to try his hand in the iron-mining business. He gained fame soon after due to his appearances in the annual Teletón, a telethon to raise funds for disabled children, when he became the first person to donate one billion pesos ($2 million) in 2009.
A New York Times profile in 2010 reported that he was the first mine owner to pay employees an ethical wage, and he helped fund a major government housing project. The profile described Farkas as a sort of folk hero, beloved by Chile’s poor but resented by the country’s conservative business community.
Farkas also famously gave $10,000 to the families of each of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months in 2010.
In addition, he is a major donor to Jewish causes, including the March of the Living and Chabad. The Chabad website says Farkas favors funding the writing of new Torah scrolls to be donated to places in need; in 2014, he commissioned seven new Sifrei Torah sent to Chabad centers on six continents.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this story.