Sylvan Adams, the itinerant “ambassador” of the billionaire of Israel

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Tel Aviv (AFP)

He participated in a cycling rally in the UAE, recruited star cyclist Chris Froome to the Tour de France Israel team and was the mentor of the first Israeli Formula 1 driver.

Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams plays the sport card to try to change the image of Israel bogged down in conflicts and to promote its normalization with the Arab world.

“The Israel I know and love is not Israel which is often portrayed in the media,” he said. “So I think there is a very distorted image of Israel. ”

His latest coup came with the announcement Thursday that Froome will join his Israel Start-Up Nation cycling team at the end of this season, the first Israeli team ready to participate in the Tour de France, which Froome has won four times.

Adams, himself an avid cyclist, arrived for an AFP interview on a competition bike, his round sunglasses veiling azure eyes.

For the camera, he travels around the wooden floor velodrome he built according to international standards in Tel Aviv, the only one in the Middle East.

Born in Quebec, the immigrant tycoon immigrated to Israel five years ago, learned Hebrew and established himself as a staple of pro-Israel “soft power”.

Forget conflict, wars – Adams prefers to talk about the economy, start-ups, democracy, tolerance and also get positive publicity for the Jewish state, where it returns to its roots.

Bringing the football superstar Lionel Messi to Tel Aviv last November was his fact, as was the Giro d’Italia cycling race in Jerusalem in 2018.

When the Williams Formula 1 racing team in January announced that Franco-Israeli Roy Nissany was their new test driver, Adams described himself as the chairman of the Roy Nissany Formula One steering group.

Nissany’s F1 car will display the Israeli flag and the Adams Israel Start-Up Nation logo.

“I’m trying to appeal to a very large audience,” said Adams. “I don’t want to convince people one at a time. It’s just too slow and I’m too old. ”

As an example, he cites a “billion” of viewers in 2018 for the stages of the Giro in the Holy Land.

Sport to build bridges between nations? This is a cause in line with Israeli foreign policy, which seeks in particular to forge links with the Gulf monarchies.

When U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner last year presented the economic components of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in Bahrain, Adams was part of the Israeli delegation.

He said he had been invited to meet Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a son of the ruler of Bahrain and also a bicycle enthusiast.

“I went to the palace. We had a private meeting. I told him about the velodrome and sent him an invitation, ”he said.

– The Adams family –

However, nothing in his past seemed to predict Adams to have a seat at the edge of the ring during these events in the Middle East.

His father, Marcel Abramovich, fled the Nazi labor camps in Romania, in Palestine, then under British domination, which he quickly left for France then Quebec, at the turn of the 1950s.

An employer there was alarmed at the cost of long distance telephone calls to traders during which Abramovich slowly spelled out his Romanian Jewish surname letter by letter.

He anglicized it to Adams, reducing the boss’s telephone bill and following in the footsteps of many migrants.

Today, Sylvan Adams is at the head of the family real estate empire, Iberville, which owns a hundred buildings in Canada and the United States.

He met his 36-year-old wife in Israel where they were both volunteers on a collective farm on the kibbutz.

He had already visited the Jewish state in his youth with his parents and they had Romanian parents who settled there, so he said that he had gotten to know and love the country.

One cold, dark afternoon from Montreal, he came home with an idea.

“I came home and said to my wife, ‘What do you think of your move to Israel?’ ”

His response, he said, was, “Let’s do it. It will be an adventure. ”

After a week in Tel Aviv, the tycoon printed a new business card that said, “Self-proclaimed ambassador to the State of Israel.”

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