Dust to Dust / The Shroud Is Still the Same

Sammy Ofer's funeral bears hallmarks of wealth and capital.

When Sammy Ofer's body was carried into the old cemetery in Tel Aviv yesterday, the most basic truth of all was again laid bare: The shroud and prayer shawl used to wrap the body were the same kind used to bury the poor. From dust you come and to dust you return, even if you are Sammy Ofer and are worth $10 billion.

Other than that, however, everything at the funeral bore the hallmarks of wealth and capital.

Wealth, but not governance. Most Israeli politicians stayed away from the funeral for the richest Israeli we've ever had. Aside from Ehud Olmert, Silvan Shalom and Meir Sheetrit, no one else from the political echelon showed up. Maybe they called; maybe the controversy surrounding the Ofers and Iran that was in the air constantly even if no one dared mention it directly prevented them from coming to pay their last respects? Hard to know.

The cemetery on Trumpeldor Street is the last resting place of the likes of so many who gave their names to streets in the big city - Dizengoff, Ahad Ha'am, Sharett and Golomb. Haim Nahman Bialik has an especially large headstone, while his wife, Mania, lies under a much smaller monument.

Yesterday, they were joined by shipping magnate Sammy Ofer in almost the last space left there. I love the spot, our Hebrew version of Paris's Pere Lachaise.

Yesterday, it was filled with hundreds of important people whose drivers and Mercedeses waited outside. The top lawyers and bankers were there. So were all of those people who have graced the gossip columns of the economic press, covering their appearance at an opening here, a concert there, an exhibition one day, a vacation the next. They all came.

One day that were at the Tshuva family wedding. Yesterday, they were at the cemetery. Yitzhak Tshuva was there, too, with a gold skullcap, maybe from the wedding. Some of those in attendance may also get streets named after them, in the spirit of the times.

Placed on the grave at the end of the funeral was a simple metal sign: "Ofer Shmuel," it read. And among company wreaths laid at the grave was one with a macabre inscription - "A better place."