Soon it will become clear why we are raising his image from the depths of oblivion.

In a number of the public opinion polls summing up the Jewish year 5766, he was chosen as man of the year. Heads of nonprofit organizations and local councils, sports functionaries, military men and academicseven recommended him for the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

On the other hand, the writer of these lines defined Arcadi Gaydamak's life's work as death work.

"He acquired his tremendous wealth in weapons, oil and diamond deals in Angola," I wrote here two and a half years ago. "These precious stones are referred to all over the world as the 'blood diamonds' that supported and are still supporting the terrible civil wars raging all over Africa; the oil was poured on massive bonfires that burned people, animals and rain forests" (Haaretz English Edition, September 29, 2006).

A week after that was published, he filed suit for the huge sum of NIS 45 million in damages for libel against Haaretz and against me. Had he wanted to sue on principle, he would have contented himself with NIS 1. But he wanted to frighten and silence, to cast out the last of those who objected to his way of conquering the land.

This week the court was sent, by agreement, a request to withdraw the suit with prejudice, thus forfeiting the right to refile at a later date.

I heaved a sigh of relief: It would have been hard for me to raise hundreds of thousands of shekels, never mind tens of millions.

I was relieved, but I was also sorry: By means of the legal proceeding I had wanted to clarify who the man was. Who are you, Arcadi Gaydamak? I had wanted to raise all the questions that the Israeli media refrained from asking, either out of laziness or fear.

After all, we have never had the slightest idea about where he came from and why, what he was looking for here, what he wanted to achieve and why specifically in Jerusalem. His life story, as he told it, is full of gaps, and the lacunae are suggestive of hoodwinking.

And we have no idea why he left. Is it because of disappointment? Is it because of economic difficulties - has he fled from his creditors? Is it the police investigations that have chased him away? Or perhaps the mysterious voice that called to him to leave the home of his fathers for the land it would show him is also the voice that has called upon him to return home when his mission failed.

Just as he came in unclear circumstances, so he has left in unfathomed circumstances, and perhaps that same voice has called to others like him.

Until not too long ago, he was Arcadi, King of Israel. However, this land devours not only its inhabitants, but also its transient guests, and kings become exiles. I am certain that none of those who waited on his doorstep or collected crumbs from his table have phoned him in Moscow to ask how he is doing.

And if he is feeling betrayed, that is understandable. More than the Gaydamak story speaks about him, it speaks about us, about how we look like "an accursed shtetl on the banks of a stinking river" from Mendele Mocher Seforim's "The Travels of Benjamin the Third."

France has issued an international warrant for Gaydamak's arrest. Even his Angolan diplomatic passport was taken from him recently. It has been reported that Russia, too, is liable to deport him soon.

If that happens, if he can find rest for his weary soul only in Israel, I would recommend to the authorities to open the gates of the last refuge. There is a limit to despicableness, ingratitude and lack of appreciation.