Certainly the most colorful figure on Israel’s political landscape is Arkady Gaydamak, the Russian billionaire, owner of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, who made headlines during the Lebanon war when, using his own funds, he built a tent city for residents the beleaguered north, and then later repeated it for residents of barraged Sderot.
Today he made headlines again by donating $8 million to renovate the homes of Holocaust survivors. Though he has joined no political party, and speaks little Hebrew, he has set up his own movement called “Social Justice,” and the country is rife with speculation about when, how, and with whom he will enter the political ring. In the meantime, he’s made a mint in political capital by showing that one rich man can do a lot where bureaucracy fails. This, combined with his con
stant search for creative ways to stay in the limelight, will carry him well with Israel’s attention-deficit electorate.
This year, Gaydamak starred in a TV commercial advertising cell phones, where he danced and sang (sorry, no subtitles, but you get the point anyway). When asked by Israel television why a potential political leader would reduce himself thus, he responded in his uncertain English, “It’s about identification. People wants to see Gaydamak. People wants to be like Gaydamak.”