The Shekel Drops / The Last Supper

As 2011 ends, we must admit that true change has not come; the winners so far are the rich and it looks like they will continue partying.

Ministers and rock stars. Knesset members and regulators. Actors, generals, bank managers, lawyers, accountants. Millionaires and models. Reporters and rival tycoons. The 1,700-man guest list for the wedding of the year read like a who's who of Israeli society.

The date was May 31, 2011. Yitzhak Tshuva spent NIS 7 million to marry off his son Elad to Roni Heiman in Ben Shemen forest. Large stages had been erected in the heart of the forest, around which gigantic hideous artificial flowers were placed. There was enough lighting to set the city of Ramat Gan aglow.-


Inside, guests worth millions rubbed shoulders with government officials and with quite a bit of silicon enhancements. Shimon Peres (yes, that one ), Rita (the singer ), and Paul Anka (a family friend ) crowded at a table with Tzipi Livni (leader of the opposition ), Yisrael Katz (minister ), Yossi Peled (former general ), Haim Saban (media mogul ) and Avraham Shochat (former finance minister ).

Some clucked tongues at the ostentatiousness and destruction of forest for the do, but all in all the gossip columnists were in full gush mode. It was a night out of time.

It didn't take long for everything to change for that 0.1% and their pet politicians.

Two weeks after the wedding, on June 14, a young man from Bnei Brak named Itzik Alrov opened a Facebook group to gripe about the price of cottage cheese. Within a week 100,000 angry people had joined his group. The entire food industry found itself under attack. Another two weeks passed and Tnuva, the biggest dairy in Israel, capitulated and lowered the price of cottage cheese.

But it didn't help. If anything, people just got madder.

On June 14, Daphni Leef set up a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, the most expensive street in Tel Aviv. She swept the people of Israel up in her protest.

There were some other last-supper spasms of ostentation, too. Elad and Roni bought a rooftop apartment for NIS 12 million in Tel Aviv. Ilan Ben-Dov said he couldn't repay his debts to Israel's widows and orphans, yet revved up to build a mansion in Kfar Shmaryahu on land he'd bought for NIS 50 million.

Shari Arison, owner of Bank Hapoalim, married off her son away from the spotlight but Nochi Dankner married off his daughter at a lavish bash (with mostly the same people ) - yet the event did nothing to save the shares of his group, IDB.

In mid-August the satirical television show Eretz Nehederet ("Wonderful Country" ) took a break from its summer break and broadcast from the center of the Rothschild Blvd. protest, exploding onto the street with an "interview" with a green capitalist pig called Noddy Ben-Tov who'd bought up the entire State of Israel, with the exception of a garage on Tel Aviv's grubby Shonzino Street and a kiosk in Netanya.

In September, three months after the wedding, 400,000 people hit the streets screaming their rage over the exorbitant cost of living in Israel.

The protest of 2011 was driven by the very thing so screamingly evident at the wedding of two young, beautiful people: cronyism, the cozy mixing of business barons, coalition and opposition politicians, police and army and the rich and famous - on public land, no less. Who of them cares about the people left outside the glittering bash, noses pressed to the windows? Who of them cares about the people whose taxes and pension savings paid for the party?

As 2011 ends, we must admit that true change has not come. The winners so far are those people at the party. It looks like that forest bash won't be their last supper, after all.