Sheldon Adelson dwarfs Ehud Olmert's contributions to Israel - opinion

Olmert is still intimidated by a great American philanthropist, even after his passing.

SHELDON ADELSON (center), his wife Miriam, and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert attend a conference in Jerusalem in 2008. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
SHELDON ADELSON (center), his wife Miriam, and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert attend a conference in Jerusalem in 2008.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
On Friday, The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed written by Ehud Olmert, former prime minister of Israel, who left his post in disgrace after multiple indictments against him, many of which he was later convicted.  Olmert penned a reprehensible “eulogy” of Sheldon Adelson, in a vain and transparent attempt to clear his own record of illegal misdeeds, by finding fault in one of the most important Jewish leaders of the past century.
Olmert makes the jaded contention that with rare exception, most of the people who offered condolences to Adelson were doing so not out of a true sense of respect for this man’s incredible achievements, but rather in an attempt to solicit additional funds from his heirs.  The proof that Olmert provides is that since Adelson’s philanthropic endeavors are now a part of history, there could be no other reason for such an outpouring of praise and emotion.
It is precisely here, where Olmert  – in his chronic myopic outlook – misses the point.  If anything, Adelson’s philanthropic endeavors are very much part of the future of the State of Israel, and not its past.  Whether it be the hundreds of Israeli doctors that will graduate annually from the Adelson School of Medicine at Ariel University, the over half million young American Jews who graduated the Birthright Israel program and now carry Israel with them in their hearts, or the millions of tourists from around the world who will physically journey along the City of David’s Pilgrimage Road yearly, Sheldon’s legacy is in fact growing, and will continue to strengthen our country from within and without long after his passing.  
I can personally attest to how unique his approach is.  I remember seeing Sheldon and his wife Miriam at an event a number of years ago.  He called me over to him and told me he wanted to make a significant contribution to the City of David.  When we sat together a short time later, he and Miriam told us about the incredible donation they wanted to make to the excavation of the Pilgrimage Road.  I told him that I had been preparing a presentation to show them, but that he and Miriam had beaten me to it.  He smiled and said that it had been weighing on him for some time that he had not yet had to the chance to help the City of David, and that his heart was enormously relieved now that it had been done.  That was Sheldon Adelson.  
I HAD THE unique privilege to be present at Adelson’s burial.  As he was laid to rest, his entire family eulogized him in a way that truly gave praise to the essence of a man so public, with the intimacy of loved ones.  Without delving into details, the overall sense was that while this great man was building his financial empire, he was always an incredible father, husband, and ultimately a mensch.  He imparted onto his family the importance of standing up for one’s convictions, and not being afraid of what others may think as a result.
 Sheldon supported the causes he believed in unabashedly.  This included war veterans in America, Jewish life in Israel and around the world, and the values of the Republican Party, along with so many others.  This quality is so rare in our day that it is understandable that some people may be threatened by the forthright way that Sheldon spoke, and the openness with which he shared his wealth.  In a time where the trend is to justify all ideas as equal and acceptable, Sheldon and Miriam conveyed a refreshingly clear outlook that good and evil are not on an equal footing and that we need to strengthen the former and defend against the latter.  Their viewpoint is probably shared by many; however, few have the courage or the standing to make a difference in the public discourse.  The Adelsons have done just that.  
The easiest way to try and denigrate these efforts is to label them as “fanatic,” and that is exactly what Olmert tries to do in his article by outrageously likening Sheldon Adelson to the hoodlums who invaded the US Capitol.  I think Sheldon would have probably laughed at the absurdity of the statement. However, to my mind, the distaste of these words, spoken by a former prime minister of the State of Israel about a great man who is no longer here to defend himself, is a further sign of how far some will descend to besmirch another, instead of issuing the apology of guilt that surely his conscience or his soul must demand.
Sheldon Adelson’s contributions will live on through his deeds and those of his family.  Thankfully, what is relegated to the past, however, is Ehud Olmert’s political aspirations.  Upon his conviction of charges including bribery, fraud and breach of trust, we experienced a collective sense of national shame.  If anything, Olmert’s lasting contribution to the State of Israel is the aspiration to try and avoid the same moral failings he so embodied, and to recognize greatness in those in which it is so deserved.
The writer is vice president of the City of David where he has been working for 20 years.