Israel in Vignettes

 The thief of Baghdad

Who wants to be a millionaire? Everyone, and the Internet is chock-a-block with suggestions of how to do it via the war in Iraq.

The Iraqi dinar has lost 98% of its value since the first Gulf War. Therefore, if it rebounds to its value of 15 years back, and if you have Iraqi dinars, you could get rich.

All you have to do, the theory goes, is invest $1,000 in a million Iraqi dinars, and wait.

The snag is that even if a currency has lost 98% of its value to date, that's no guarantee that it won't go onto lose 98% of its value from that low point it had reached. Nor is anybody claiming that stability is around the corner for Iraq, or that its economy is flourishing anew. It is not. Just last week Washington decided to send in 20,000 more American soldiers.

Another snag is that it's hard to know if you're getting genuine Iraqi bills. And who can say if and when the government will be replaced, and whether it might prefer to issue a whole new currency, rendering the old bills as valuable as grandpa's used socks?

And mainly, you can buy Iraqi dinars from dealers in Israel, but that doesn't guarantee that come the day, they'll buy them back. Becoming a millionaire just isn't that easy.

 Don't worry, be happy

A Bank of Israel study found that equity analysts are a cheerful sort. It turns out that in 72% of the cases the bank looked at, the analysts counseled investors to buy shares. The study even found that there's a herd effect: analysts publishing reports at about the same time, reach about the same conclusions.

Goodness, who'da thought that analysts were such a merry bunch, except for anybody who realizes that they're actually part of the marketing machine of the brokers who employ them, and optimism attracts clients. And it isn't as though we didn't know that the safest thing is to predict what everybody else is predicting, to reduce risk. Go with the flow.

 Free - ichs

The Caesarea Ralli Museum is private. It was founded by Harry Recanati, the oldest son of Leon Recanati, who founded Bank Discount. Harry at the time didn't want to float Bank Discount, and stepped down to run his private business.

After a few years, he sold his business and devoted his time to art. He built four private museums, in Uruguay, Spain, Chile and Israel. The museums have an impressive collection of Latino-American modern art, and the museum in Caesarea is especially impressive.

Unlike other museums in Israel, the Ralli does not accept donations. It has no commercial activity, no souvenir shops and no cafeteria. You may photograph the works if you please and mainly, get in for free.

Yet for all its beauty, the museum is hardly overrun with visitors, because we don't appreciate freebies. They are cause for worry. How, exactly, are we being screwed? We may not know, but we're sure that's how it is.