Businessman and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, whose contribution to Israel and Jewish life throughout the world, was laid to rest on Friday in a private ceremony on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem with close family members present. He passed away on Jan. 11 at the age of 87.
Adelson: Loved Jerusalem
Dr. Miriam Adelson, his wife and partner in so many of his projects, eulogized him as someone who could not be replaced due to his sheer impact on so many levels.
“It may seem strange, here in Jerusalem, the heart of Israel, which was so dear to Sheldon’s heart, I am eulogizing my husband, in English, rather than in Hebrew, but Sheldon never liked simultaneous translations, and as I speak now I feel that he can hear me,” she said.
“I feel him watching, listening to every word with every magnetic attention he lavished on me, each every day during our more than 32 years together. So here I am, Sheldon, adrift in endless pain, sustained with endless love. Saying, goodbye … Shalom.”
She recalled their many years together, and the joint effort to fight the illness.
“It was a privilege, Sheldon, each additional hour and minute and second that we had together was a gift, and I am sorry, so so sorry, that I couldn’t make it last longer. I do not want to accept this ending, I do not want to accept this final act. Ours is a love story that should go on forever, and it will go on, in my memory, in my agonized heart, which for as long as it beats, will beat for you and only for you.
“How powerful you were, Sheldon. You warmed and lit up people’s life like sunshine; you lifted them up, like the ocean waves, your spirit was like a tempest wind, undeniable, and now that you are gone, how will we go on? I look around Sheldon, at our children, at our grandchildren, at our friends, at the businesses we built, the charities, the historic political achievements … this will last. They will prosper to the benefit of all of humanity, and they will proudly bear your name and follow in your example.”
Mount of Olives and the Resurrection of the Dead
The ceremony was held in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Dr. Adelson noted that “those buried here, on the Mount of Olives will be resurrected first,” once the Messiah comes. She said that she would one day renew their partnership, but “until then, until we are reunited, I will part with you with lines from one of our favorite songs.”
Dr. Adelson, an Israeli, was citing the Jewish tradition connected to the largest and most important Jewish cemetery in the world. Covering 62 acres, the cemetery has been in use for over 3,000 years and was first used during the reign of King David. It contains over 150,000 gravesites, including the tombs traditionally identified with the Biblical figures Zechariah, Absalom, Haggai, and Malachi
The site is also called the Mount of Anointment due to the anointing oil that was, prepared from the olives that grew there that was used to anoint kings and high priests. The Jewish commentaries relate that for three and a half years the Shechinah ( the divine presence) dwelled on the Mount of Olives after having left the site of the Temple Mount in the expectation that the Jewish people would do repentance. The prophets Zechariah and Ezekiel prophesied that from there it would make its return to its proper place at the Temple. The Red Heifer ceremony was performed on the Mount of Olives. Ashes from the heifer were used to purify those defiled by contact with the dead.
According to Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the dead will begin at the Mount of Olives and those buried there are exempt from the “separation of the soul at the grave” and “migration via underground passages.”
Arab War on the Dead
Due to its prominence in Jewish eschatology, the cemetery has become one of the main targets for Arab vandalism. Gravestones are destroyed and mourners are attacked on a daily basis, requiring special security details to accompany Jews who visit the site.
Considered a holy site by international accords, it is protected by international law. Nonetheless, during the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, an estimated 38,000 gravestones were damaged. Four paved roads ran over hundreds of graves, and Jordan’s King Hussein permitted the construction of the Intercontinental Hotel on the mount, destroying some gravesites from the First Temple period. Gravestones were removed and used for paving stones, and some were taken for use as latrines in Jordanian army barracks.
In 2011, it was discovered the Arabs had begun burying their dead adjacent to the Eastern Wall of the Temple Mount, in between centuries-old Jewish graves and the Temple Mount. Not only was this illegal and destructive to the archaeology of the site, it was, in effect, jumping to the front of the resurrection queue.
Even stranger was when authorities caught Arabs preparing fake Muslim graves at the site, graves which contained no human remains, an action that can only be an attempt to distance Jews from being buried in the spot where the resurrection will begin.
It has also been conjectured that this is an attempt to prevent a Jewish Kohen (priest) from ever performing the ritual of the Red Heifer, since he is forbidden for reasons of ritual purity from walking over a grave, and he must do so in order to bring the ashes of the Red Heifer to the Temple. This is a mistaken belief, since the remains of a non-Jew do not carry impurity.
Sheldon Adelson: Contribution to Hospitals, Universities, Jewish Outreach Programs
Dr. Adelson then quoted from Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings: “You were the one with all the strength, a beautiful smile to hide the pain, did you ever know that you are my hero and everything I want you to know, I know the truth, of course, I know it, I would be nothing without you. Fly, fly, fly high against the sky. Thank you, thank you. Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.” The song was then played.
Adelson has been mourned by world leaders and prominent business figures around the globe since his death was announced earlier this week after a long illness.
His city, Las Vegas, which he helped reinvent itself, had massive marquee displays in his memory this week along the Strip.
In Israel and the Jewish world, Adelson was compared this week to other major Jewish philanthropists and Zionist giants, owing to his massive contribution to hospitals, universities and Jewish outreach programs (including hundreds of millions of dollars to the Taglit-Birthright project that brought hundreds of thousands of Jewish young people to the country), as well as to his relentless activities to helping make Israel stronger and more secure.
Many credit him for the successful effort to have the United States and other countries recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, beginning with official American recognition in December 2017.
On Thursday, when Adelson’s casket arrived in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid his respects and stood next to it for several minutes, later meeting with Dr. Adelson and other family members.