I have no wealthy friends, not a single tycoon. Is that something that should make me feel pride or shame? I know their names - Ofer, Dankner, Arison and other wealthy families - only from the media, and mostly from the gossip columns, which I'll read first before turning to the main news. If not, how will I know who's hanging around with whom, who's in debt to whom? This is the thread connecting politicians and political ideologues, and those who are pulling the strings here.
Now I'll be more specific: I once met with Yitzhak Tshuva, who through me donated several thousand shekels to a gifted pianist from Sderot who'd been invited to study at a German conservatory. Another time we met at the Academic College of Netanya - where I was a speaker and he was a distributor of scholarships to students, and he spoke of what a privilege it was for him.
Impolitely, I interrupted him to say: It's not a privilege, it's an obligation. Tshuva was surprised. After all, his money is his, and he has the right to do with it as he pleases.
A few months ago, a friend's son got married. The guest list on the bride's side included all of Israel's tycoons (this is starting to become as interesting as a gossip column ). Tshuva approached me, sat down and said: "I thought about what you said at the college and I understood - you were right."
For a moment, I actually believed I'd been of some help and hadn't merely scattered my protest to the wind, but I was soon disappointed. I've been following his handling of the gas royalties affair, and I can sum up for myself: Tshuva did not understand a thing, nothing at all.
And he's not the only one. All of his Israeli colleagues have yet to understand something now self evident to billionaires the world over, especially in swinish America. For example, Facebook founder and man of the year Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he will be joining Warren Buffett and Bill Gates; he has also promised to donate most of his money to charity.
And this "charity" does justice: After all, they have produced treasures from natural resources that belong to all of us; they have accrued their tremendous wealth from the human capital that the state trained and placed at their disposal, a resource that is reserved for every taxpaying citizen; and they have derived their economic and political power from the purchasing power and the savings of every consumer. The public is the source of their wealth, and to the public these riches must be returned. These men owe a great debt to society, and they must pay it; the lion's share of what they have received will be returned.
There are already 57 billionaires who have decided to follow in the footsteps of Buffett, Gates and Zuckerberg - it has become an entire movement that's gaining momentum. But here, in the meanwhile, in the society that invented solidarity and mutual responsibility, there is still no connection between flattery and contribution: The carpets spread at the feet of the celebrity-benefactors are too red. In Israel, such figures donate less than in any other developed nation. The local banks, to give an example, allocate only about one half of one percent of their profits for public use, and the same is true for other big businesses.
The gentiles, on the other hand, who are less expert in the Torah's laws and commandments, are far more generous. We have presumed to shed so much light on the unknowing gentiles, that we have been left on the dark side of the planet.
How can we explain the gap between good public relations and generous contributions? Did the political ideologues learn from the politicians to take care of their own? Or was it the other way around? Are Israel's successful and wealthy people no more than petty nouveaux riches? And do they, like mice lying on top of their dinners, enjoy fatty cheese so much that their hedonism makes them irresponsible? Whatever the case, in life and in death they are not parted from their wallets.
Israel is waiting for its first Warren Buffett.
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