One of the two brothers leading Israel’s largest conglomerate, Ofer Brothers, passed away yesterday (Hebrew and English). He was Sami Ofer, 89, a native of Romania who was brought to Israel by his parents at the age of 2 in 1924. The elder of the brothers, Sami was the richest man in Israel and 79th richest in the world according to Forbes. He died after a long illness.
The timing of his death is peculiar to say the least given the controversy surrounding his company, which was placed on a U.S. blacklist for selling one of its ships to the Iranian shipping lines. Calcalist reported that Ofer ships visited Iran regularly and my own source reported dozens of visits during which many Mossad agents were infiltrated into the country for secret missions. Though the company initially refused to comment on my story, it later partially confirmed it when a source “close to the family” confirmed the company had performed feats on behalf of the nation. Subsequently, yet another statement regretted the previous remarks. So you make of it what you will.
One of my readers quipped sardonically about Ofer’s death: “Dead men tell no tales.” I have to add that Ofer’s glasses would make Elton John proud. I’ve never seen eyeware quite like them, a cross between goggles and glasses. In some pictures they’re tinted an odd shade of pink.
On a related note, I had a conversation with an Israeli journalist who’d read my earlier post in which I said with slight exaggeration that Ofer Brothers appeared at times almost to be a wholly owned subsidiary of Israel’s intelligence services. The reporter replied on the contrary, the company was so big, employed so many thousands of Israelis, and intertwined so deeply in Israel’s economy that it was Israel itself that was the asset of Ofer Brothers! Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the company’s major holding company is called Israel Corporation. It reminds me a bit of the old saying in this country: “As General Motors goes, so goes the nation.”