Reuven Adler: My brilliant friend

Reuven Adler was close to the Sharon family for decades. He was a sharp, unerring, and brutal analyst, a winner to the core and someone who didn't quit in bad times.

 REUVEN ADLER, one of the founders of the Adler-Chomsky advertising agency, poses for a photo in 2004. (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
REUVEN ADLER, one of the founders of the Adler-Chomsky advertising agency, poses for a photo in 2004.
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

Forget for a moment that the man was brilliant. We’ll come back to that. But beyond his brilliance, Adler was loyal. Loyal to Maccabi Haifa, loyal to his friends from Kiryat Haim, to the friends he studied with at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, to Falafel Hazkenim in Wadi Nisnas with the lemony tahini, to Emil’s Shawarma a little farther down the hill, to the friends in his “parliament,” the group that met regularly to discuss the state of the nation, convening in various places, like Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast.

Instead of moving around Paris, they went from Teddy’s restaurant on Dubnov Street (“Your Diet Sprite is excellent,” Adler used to tease Teddy) to Amos’s Reviva, and other establishments that served outstanding food.

Adler was also a hypochondriac of unprecedented proportions, long before COVID-19 produced many more of that variety. He would go into a pharmacy in perfect health and ask the pharmacist, “Anything new?” 

He chose his vacation destinations according to the quality of the nearest hospital. And I remember the glare he directed at some poor soul who sneezed during a flight. “That’s how you get SARS,” he declared loudly. Nobody really knew what SARS was at the time, but the vitriol in his voice left little room for doubt. 

In the 1970s, after graduating from Bezalel, Adler went to work in London, where he was introduced to advertising on a world-class level. When he returned to Israel, he opened Studio Adler, which brought him financial success. 

ARIEL SHARON stands on the banks of the Suez Canal in Egypt. (credit: REUTERS)ARIEL SHARON stands on the banks of the Suez Canal in Egypt. (credit: REUTERS)

But the real breakthrough came when he was in his fifties and joined forces with Eyal Chomski to found what was to become the country’s leading advertising agency. 

He made decisions intuitively, using his animal instincts. He would read polls and surveys, but in the end it was a gut decision. He wasn’t born into money. Everything he had, and it was quite a lot, he earned with his own two hands.

“It’s like sh**ting on a fan,” he liked to say in his colorful language whenever someone came up with an idea that he thought was potentially risky. When a mayor asked for his help in improving the image of his city, he responded in utter seriousness, “Change its name.” 

His political analyses were not the height of political correctness either. “Obama is going to beat out Hillary Clinton,” he told me during the 2008 primaries in which they went up against each other and all the polls were predicting a win for Clinton. “Why, Reuven?” I asked. “The way he walks,” he said, “and look at her. She looks like somebody’s aunt.” 

That was the quintessential Adler, a sharp, unerring, and brutal analyst. He was a winner to the core, a man who hated to lose, who put his heart and soul in the game, a bottom-line man with a record of triumphs.

ADLER WAS the only child of Holocaust survivors, born in Warsaw during the German occupation. His father loathed the Poles even more than the Germans. As an only child who never had to share with his siblings, he had no patience whatsoever. “I’m going to get something from the car,” he used to say when he felt he had had enough of a dinner or event. And off he’d go to the car, but he wouldn’t come back. 

He couldn’t handle a busy signal on the phone – he wanted you to answer his call immediately. It came so naturally to him that you couldn’t get mad at him.

Adler came into my family in 1976. He came and stayed until his death last week. He ran the election campaign of my father’s party Shlomzion in 1977, and, of course, the campaign in 2001 when my father was elected prime minister by a landslide. 

Adler invented the slogan, “Only Sharon will bring peace,” explaining, “You’ve already got security in the bag, Arik.” He also ran the 2003 campaign my father won hands down, doubling the number of Likud seats in the Knesset from 19 to 38. 

Unlike those who were with us mainly in good times, Adler never left. Not after the Kahan Commission that investigated my father’s involvement in the events in the refugee camps in Beirut, not in the 1990s when it seemed like his career was over, not when he fell ill, and not even when he passed away. Adler, loyal as ever, never left.

Dear Ronit, Mika, Daniel, and Yarden, we share your pain.

The writer is a son of the late former prime minister Ariel Sharon. 

Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai, [email protected]