Sheldon Adelson was laid to rest Friday at a small private funeral on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The billionaire casino mogul died Tuesday of complications related to treatment for non-Hodkinson’s lymphoma. He was 87.
The Times of Israel reports that Adelson’s casket arrived in Israel on Thursday evening. Draped in Israeli and US flags, it was briefly on display at Ben Gurion airport to allow friends and admirers to pay their respects.
These included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who described Adelson as a “great Jewish patriot.” His passing was “a great loss for the Jewish people,” he added.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts to Jewish immigrant parents, Adelson was a fervent Zionist who established the Adelson Family Foundation to “strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
He was the primary funder of Birthright Israel, the program that flies Jewish American teens and young adults to Israel on educational trips. And he donated $25 million, more than any other private individual, to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
More controversially, as the biggest financial backer of Donald Trump in the last two election cycles, he was suspected of holding sway over the Trump administration’s Middle East policy, which critics said strongly favored Israel over Palestine.
Trump’s controversial decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as the Israeli capital, was a politically provocative move in the region.
But it was also a cause close to Adelson’s heart. He and his Israeli wife Miriam attended the opening of the embassy in 2018.
Adelson was a staunch supporter of Netanyahu, although there is evidence that the Netanyahus and the Adelsons recently fell out.
In 2014, he acquired the Hebrew-language free daily national newspaper Israel Hayom, which is so pro-Netanyahu it has been accused of compromising the foundations of Israeli democracy.
Sometimes Adelson’s passion for the politics of the region boiled over into unthinking extremist rhetoric, such as when, in 2013, he called on the Obama administration to nuke Iran rather than negotiate with it.
A year later, Iran took retribution, launching a massive cyberattack against LVS Corp that crippled its systems and caused $40 million in damage.
The incident highlights Adelson’s divisive nature — a man capable of great benevolence and also belligerence.
Ultimately, though, he once said he hoped his philanthropic works in Israel would be his true legacy, rather than the opulent, sprawling destination casino resorts he created.
Macau may have made him one of the wealthiest people in the world, but it was not the Promised Land.
“We are now in the country Sheldon loved so much,” Miriam Adelson said in a statement. “It is just hard to believe that he will no longer get to see it in his own eyes. This time he has come for his final resting place, not in order to search for a way to help and contribute.
“This is a feeling of great emptiness and loss, but also a sense of comfort, knowing that he is no longer suffering and that he will soon lie in the Mount of Olives, in Zion, next to some of the greatest people of our nation.”