In Israel, Adams Has Swagger in His Step and ‘Hustle’ on His Sleeve
The mayor was peak Eric Adams on his trip, keeping a frenzied schedule, checking out police drones, enjoying Tel Aviv’s nightlife and shaking off the haters.
By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
Reporting from Tel Aviv
When Mayor Eric Adams of New York City faces the familiar question about why he goes out on the town so often, he offers a standard defense: He says his enthusiastic presence at nightclubs and restaurants helps boost a multibillion dollar industry.
Apparently the mayor chose to follow a similar practice on his trip to Israel.
On a whirlwind three-day visit, Mr. Adams dined at the Whiskey Bar and Museum in Tel Aviv, a sleek restaurant with more than 1,000 types of whiskey. He danced and banged a drum at Jerusalem’s rowdy Mahane Yehuda Market. He was photographed with the son of an Israeli billionaire as he enjoyed Tel Aviv’s buzzing nightlife scene.
Mr. Adams may have been thousands of miles away from home, but was still very much himself: high energy, highly quotable, spiritual, ideologically to the right of many Democrats in his party, wary of the press, fond of police drone demonstrations and foremost a foodie.
The trip gave Mr. Adams some distance from a series of pressing challenges in New York City, allowing him to focus on preferred topics, like his ties to the Jewish community, public safety and courting business.
Much of his schedule was filled with events not open to journalists, even though members of the City Hall press corps were in Israel to cover the mayor. The names of those he met at private events were typically not disclosed, and he held only two media briefings, neither of them in person.
One moment that unintentionally went viral was his visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where he was photographed with his hand pressed to the wall, his right wrist adorned with a beaded bracelet that spells out “HUSTLE.”
Even though Mr. Adams has worn the bracelet since at least November 2021, it was seen as a surprising, if jarring, juxtaposition: a holy site dating back more than 2,000 years alongside a modern slogan that the mayor lives by.
Other facets of the mayor’s personality were on display during the trip. Mr. Adams, a health enthusiast who wrote a book about his plant-based diet, grilled a chef about the fat, carb and sugar contents of the vegan burgers and kebabs he was presented during his meeting with the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. At a lunch to showcase Israeli food companies, he appeared to nibble on a bite of grouper before realizing that it was, in fact, fish — part of a pattern of straying from his mostly vegan diet.
On Wednesday night in Tel Aviv, the mayor dined with Asaf Zamir, a former Israeli consul general in New York at whose wedding Mr. Adams officiated in June. Mr. Zamir thanked Mr. Adams on Instagram for visiting the city’s nightlife.
The mayor kept his order simple: a plain salad with a sweet potato, without salt or oil, Mr. Zamir said. They discussed many topics, he said, including pollution, crime, outdoor dining and affordable housing.
Mr. Adams, a former police officer, delighted in a demonstration of police technology at Israel’s National Police Academy that included two officers riding a BMW motorcycle holding a large gun in the air, and a futuristic drone that Mr. Adams said was superior to New York’s technology.
“One thing that really caught my eye was utilizing motorcycles and drones together, something that we have not been using in the city to immediately get to your location,” Mr. Adams said.
Still, even as he celebrated Israel’s security apparatus, Mr. Adams conceded that some tactics would not be palatable back home: “Some countries, Israel and others, use technology that just will not fit in America’s belief on privacy,” he said.
Mr. Adams has said that he sleeps only four hours a night, and that seemed to be the case in Israel, where he kept a relentless schedule. The mayor was whisked around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in a phalanx of black SUVs — similar to the way he moves about New York City. Mr. Adams’s new deputy mayor for communications, Fabien Levy, declined to say whether the mayor took either city’s light rail system.
Mr. Levy was more direct in his response to the city comptroller, Brad Lander, who questioned the mayor’s decision not to visit Palestinian families in the West Bank.
“Since you asked, the mayor met with Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, organizers in the protest movement and more over the last two days,” Mr. Levy responded on X, the website formerly known as Twitter.
In Israel, the mayor continued his practice of promoting private companies, including F2 Venture Capital, a venture capital firm that works in artificial intelligence and big data; Aleph Farms, a food technology company that is preparing to seek regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and Egg’n’Up, a start-up that makes plant-based eggs.
He also attended a “business leaders round table” hosted by the Bank of Israel; Mr. Levy would not provide a list of the attendees.
Wherever the mayor goes, the powerful and wealthy want to be near him. On his night out in Tel Aviv, Mr. Adams was photographed with Gil Ofer, the son of the Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer, and Said Abulafia, a member of another wealthy family.
By appearing with the prime minister, Mr. Adams aligned himself with more conservative Democrats and Netanyahu loyalists back home. Some left-leaning Jewish groups urged him to challenge Mr. Netanyahu during their meeting over his efforts to weaken the judicial system, but Mr. Adams said he did not want to get involved.
And the mayor, as always, provided intriguing commentary. Some of his quotes have become memes, such as “my haters become my waiters when I sit down at the table of success,” while others raise more questions than they answer.
Mr. Adams has said that he wanted to retire in Israel, possibly in the Golan Heights, a fertile plateau beside the Sea of Galilee that Israel annexed unilaterally but Syria still claims. When a reporter asked him in Israel if he did indeed plan to retire there, the mayor said that it was on a short list of eight places, along with Senegal and Nigeria and “a few more I want to keep secret so the press won’t be able to find me when I retire.”
Before leaving town, Mr. Adams told tech leaders that the country could overcome its current challenges, using a metaphor that was open to interpretation.
“Israel is a unicorn,” he told them.
Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
Emma G. Fitzsimmons is the City Hall bureau chief, covering politics in New York City. She previously covered the transit beat and breaking news. More about Emma G. Fitzsimmons