Scions of some of Israel’s most revered rabbinical dynasties are also major players in the material world, ranking among the Jewish state’s wealthiest citizens, local media reported on Tuesday.
Quoting from a forthcoming list by Forbes Israel, newspapers said that two descendants of the mystic Moroccan-born Yisrael Abuhatzeira, known as the Baba Sali, topped the richest rabbi list.
They said that rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira, his great-grandson, controls assets valued at 1.3 billion shekels ($337 million, 266 million euros), with his uncle, rabbi David Hai Abuhatzeira, following with 750 million shekels.
They inherited their wealth on the death of Pinchas Abuhatzeira’s father, leading rabbi Eliezer Abuhatzeira, who was stabbed to death last July by a follower, allegedly angry over marital advice he was given by the holy man.
They are followed by rabbis of Ashkenazi, or European, origin; Yaakov Aryeh Elter, with 350 million shekels, Yissachar Dov Rokach with 180 million and, more modestly, rabbi Nir Ben Artzi who began life as a farmer before being hailed as a miracle worker and is now listed as controlling assets of 100 million shekels.
The papers quoted Forbes as estimating that the religion industry has an annual income of around a billion shekels, from sales of Torah scrolls, officiating at ceremonies, donations and other activities.
They said that the rabbis also have interests in finance and business.
Israel’s overall richest person, according to Forbes, is shipping magnate Idan Ofer, who is 161 on Forbes list of world billionaires with $6.2 billion, after inheriting a fortune from his father Sammy Ofer, who died aged 89 in June 2011.