Photo: Visual/Photos
'Talented people stay out of politics because they know their success has become a mark of disgrace'
Photo: Visual/Photos
Ben-Dror Yemini

Wealth should not be a badge of shame

Op-ed: Fortune could be a sign of corruption, but it could also be a sign of talent. Not every person who becomes rich is a crook.

It happened three decades ago. A famous contractor built a tall building, one of the first in Tel Aviv, at the Gan Ha'ir shopping mall. It wasn't trendy those days, and it wasn't clear that the strange tower would become a luxury building.



In an attempt to promote sales, the contractor offered apartments at a discounted price to three public figures. Two of them accepted the offer; the third refused to take the reduction. Even then, he saw it as a slightly indecent proposal. His name is Benjamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer.


This story illustrates that we should doubt the agenda about "deteriorating norms." Things used to be different once – and they were likely much worse. Even then there were connections between capital and the government, but then, somehow, there was no one to do thorough clean-up.


There were modest leaders, like David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin, but there were also others who looked after their own interests. There were hedonist officers, and there were links to criminals.


Many years have passed since then. We are in an era of a thorough clean-up and we must welcome it, but we must also be cautious. There are many who made their fortune through hard work and wise conduct. There are many who became rich and made others rich and were unsullied.


A fortune is not a sign of corruption. Sometimes it’s a sign of talent. Calvinism saw wealth as a sign of Divine blessing. A sign from Heaven for hard work which leads to success. Judaism doesn't see wealth as a negative thing either, as long as it was achieved in decent ways.


So there is a need to exercise cautious, because a thorough clean-up could turn into a witch hunt. Wealth could be a sign of corruption, but it could also be a sign of talent. Not every person who becomes rich is a crook. Sometimes he is a creative, productive and fascinating person like businessman Stef Wertheimer.


There are thousands of people like him. One developed a drip irrigation system, another developed a successful medication, a third person developed an amazing application, and a fourth – a wonderful patent.


Wealth and wealthy people are the identifying mark of every free society. There are rich people with a huge fortune in Sweden as well. Fureidis, an Arab town near Zichron Ya'akov, has a neighborhood with luxurious and amazing villas, which doesn't necessarily point to corruption but rather to prosperity.


The problem is that we are in a process of a reversal of the order of events. Wealth is becoming an identifying mark of corruption, and every rich person could be seen as a criminal until proven otherwise.


There are hundreds of young and not so young people living among us, who started from scratch and turned into success stories. Yes, they are rich. And no, they should not be ashamed of it. They are talented. Very talented. They have done something in their lives, and they didn't just do it well – they did it in the best way possible.


I wish we had people like them in politics. It's possible that the state would be managed much better with the deposits of talent left outside. But they're not coming, because they know that their success is becoming less and less a sign of talent and more and more a mark of disgrace. It's not that every successful person is persecuted, but the chance of persecution increases in a direct correlation with success. So they prefer to stay outside.


At this rate, who knows, candidates for senior positions may have to be checked by the chastity police. Homeless people will have quite a good starting point, as it's clear that they are not corrupt. The talented ones will remain outside, as they have the mark of disgrace of rich people.


פרסום ראשון: 06.09.14, 21:03
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