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Bill Davidson, 86, Jewish Philanthropist and Archaeology Buff

William Davidson, billionaire Jewish philanthropist, owner of the Detroit Pistons basketball team, and businessman, has died at the age of 86.
By Malkah Fleisher
First Publish: 3/16/2009, 3:43 PM

William "Bill" Davidson, billionaire Jewish philanthropist, owner of the Detroit Pistons basketball team, and businessman, has passed away at the age of 86.

Davidson was a long-time lover of Israel and philanthropist who gave to the Jewish State.  After the Yom Kippur war, he and fellow Detroit area philanthropist Dr. Lloyd J. Paul were flown to Israel by Prime Minister Golda Meir and given the Prime Minister's Club award for outstanding philanthropic deeds towards Israel.

In 2007, Davidson and his wife, Karen, gave $75 million to the Hadassah University Medical Center at Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.  The gift is being used to built an in-patient wing at the hospital, and was given in honor of Davidson's mother – the founder of the Detroit chapter of the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization – Sarah Wetsman Davidson.

The Davidsons are also noted patrons of the Israel Antiquities Authority, particularly sponsoring digs around the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which have been named the "Davidson excavations" in tribute to the couple's generosity.

Davidson was the founder of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, which the park's website calls "Israel’s most important antiquity site."  Stretching from the northern Temple Mount to the slope of the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley on the east, and the Valley of Hinom on the west and south the area is an open museum and archaelogical park.

Davidson also established the Davidson Center at the entrance of the park.  At the center, visitors can enjoy an in-depth archaeological and historical introduction to the park with state-of-the-art audio-visual aids, including a real-time virtual reality reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount prior to its destruction.

The Davidsons also gifted $15 million to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.  The endowment for the Davidson Institute of Science and Education was reciprocated with an honorary doctorate by the Weizmann Institute in 2001.

Davidson also funded the graduate school of Conservative Judaism's Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, and was a contributor to the Wexner Foundation, giving grants to post-graduate students of Jewish studies.

Guardian Industries, Davidson's successful glass-products company in Michigan, showcases ancient Hebrew glass vessels and other objects on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority dating to the Roman and Byzantine periods.