Opinion

This Could Be Used by Future Historians Analyzing Israeli Decadence

זיוה שטרנהל
Ziva Sternhell
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Israeli heir Idan Ofer and wife Batya Ofer's “renewal of vows” celebration. Credit: Screeshot from Mykonos Live TV
זיוה שטרנהל
Ziva Sternhell

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The reports from the “renewal of vows” celebration in Mykonos, which Idan Ofer organized for him and his wife, prove that those living in the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street don’t have a monopoly on extravagant behavior.

The tycoon, who is known for his outstanding frugality, who had no trouble dismissing hundreds of employees, and even moved to London in order to pay fewer taxes to the country whose resources he knows how to exploit to their fullest – did not hesitate to invest 5 million euros in a party that’s a visual symbol of Made in Israel moral and social rot.

The ridiculous video of the celebration, which was published by local media, attest to the fact that Ofer doesn’t waste his time in London visiting museums or reading history books. Otherwise we could reasonably assume that he may have been deterred from hosting a party using familiar images from the final days of the Roman Empire, whose moral degeneration inspired paintings depicting decadence in previous centuries. The detailed reports from the event also show how Israeli provincialism is still alive and kicking, even in the era of worldwide social media.

Provincialism is an ancient concept. Archaeological findings have already revealed the tendency of distant provinces to cheaply imitate Roman art and culture. In Israel the phenomenon is reflected in showing blind admiration for philosophical trends, even after their status declines in the cultural centers of the United States and Europe, and the hoisting of neoliberal flags by politicians the likes of Ayelet Shaked and Moshe Feiglin – while paying little heed to the growing global discourse about economic gaps, even at the annual conferences held in Davos.

In the fields of art, architecture and urban planning, as well, we are familiar with the phenomenon of the enthusiastic adoption of ideas imported from abroad, without understanding their full significance and whether they suit the local context (such as the high-rise building craze going on all around us).

Idan Ofer in 2011. Heir to the family's fortune together with his brother Eyal Ofer. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

So it’s no wonder that Ofer discovered the Burning Man Festival only after its commercialization and subsequent decline took place. Even such extreme ostentation, a phenomenon that was prevalent at the end of the last century, is no longer as customary. Even among members of the top thousandth percentile in the United States many of those once primarily interested in inflating their bank accounts have been showing signs of greater social awareness in the past decade.

It seems that in Israel, too, some people have begun to internalize this new trend. For example, tycoon Yitzhak Tshuva learned a lesson from the public anger aroused by the opulent wedding he threw his son a few years ago, and since then his name seems to have disappeared from the society columns. Rumors about those changes apparently didn’t reach Ofer. The photos that remain from the disgraceful event that he hosted could be used by future historians analyzing Israeli decadence of the millennium’s earlier years. We can only hope that they won’t have to compare what happens in the State of Israel to the bitter end of the Roman Empire.

Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer and wife Batya Ofer's “renewal of vows” celebration. A disgraceful event that could be used by historians analyzing Israeli decadence of the millennium’s earlier years.Credit: Screenshot from Mykonos Live TV

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