'Everyone has the right to hear voices," Channel 10 commentator Motti Kirshenbaum reacted when Shari Arison revealed her "messages from above" in a TV interview ahead of the Hebrew publication of her book Birth: When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together. "The problem is," he retorted, "I don't want someone who hears voices to be owner of the bank where my money is."
The brouhaha over Birth is not Arison's first run-in with the press by far, neither on this side of the pond nor in her native United States.
In 2003, she left Israel for Miami after being hounded for defending Bank Hapoalim's decision to give pink slips to 900 employees. Coming on the heels of her Essence of Life Campaign, "Peace Begins Within," that affair earned her the epithet of the Queen of Mean from the Histadrut despite the fact that she wasn't, at the time, a major shareholder in the bank and was said to have helped earn a reprieve for 100 employees.
Relocating to Miami may have given her a break from the Israeli media, but as a result she ended up in court in the Sunshine State, accused by her second husband, Micky Dorsman, of taking their eight-year-old son Daniel out of Israel without consent. Arison returned to Israel, rendering the court case moot.
An article in Forbes titled "Poor little rich girl" described the affair as "just another installment in the tempestuous public saga of... a Barbara Hutton figure who craves, if not love - ever elusive - then just some respect."
Ranked 234 on Forbes's 2009 rich list with a fortune of $2.7 billion - down from a 2004 worth of $4.6b. - Arison, 51, is the heiress of the self-made shipping magnet and Carnival Cruise Line founder Ted Arison.
Born in Miami, she spent her childhood between Israel and the US after her parents divorced and she returned to Israel with her mother, Mina Arison Sapir.
Arison served in the navy before returning once again to Miami where, according to a Bloomberg report, she studied at Miami-Dade Community College, without getting a degree, and married Jose Sueiras, a Carnival employee with whom she had three children, Jason, David and Cassie.
In 1988, she married Dorsman, an Israeli basketball coach eight years her junior, who reportedly received a multimillion-dollar dowry from Ted Arison.
The couple moved to Miami, but returned to Israel in 1991 following in the footsteps of Ted Arison, who left Carnival in the hands of his son Micky and went on to make a number of major investments here including the purchase of controlling stakes in Bank Hapoalim and Shikun & Binui.
Shari Arison's marriage to Dorsman was terminated in 2002 and in May of the following year she married Eilat businessman Ofer Glazer at a glitzy wedding at her Bnei Zion estate. Shortly after the wedding reports surfaced that Glazer had sexually abused four women, including a therapist who had tended to Arison after cosmetic surgery. Glazer was convicted and served a six-month prison term. Although Arison stood by him, the two were divorced earlier this year, shortly after his release from jail.
When Ted Arison died in 1999, Micky was left with control of Carnival, while Shari was left with the Israeli investments, the philanthropic operations and a 15 percent share in the cruise line.
Arison gradually reshuffled the business empire built up by her father, selling off her stake in telecommunications provider Eurocom Group, and buying up shares in Hapoalim, including from her father's former aide Shlomo Nehama, to gain a controlling holding.
Today, Arison operates her businesses and philanthropy under the umbrella of the Arison Group.
The group's business arm is made up of Hapoalim, the country's largest bank; Shikun & Binui, one of its largest real-estate and infrastructures companies; and Salt Industries Ltd. She is also the founder of Miya, a global water company specializing in water loss reduction and effective management of urban water.
The group's philanthropic arm includes volunteer organizations Ruah Tova and Matan - Your Way to Give, as well as the more New Age inclined Essence of Life, defined by the group's Web site as "an organization whose aim is to heighten awareness and provide tools for attaining inner peace, both in Israel and abroad," and All One, which calls itself "an organization established to generate a global conversation of a new reality and whose message can be summed up as 'We are all connected. We are all part of one.'"
Arison also initiated Good Deeds Day, which each year enables people the opportunity to volunteer and help others.
Her philanthropic activities are, however, far from limited to her spiritual vision and volunteerism. The Ted Arison Family Foundation is a major donor to projects in the fields of education, the arts and medicine and has contributed to the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), the Weizmann Institute of Science, the School for the Arts in Tel Aviv, the Interdisciplinary Center and the Rubin Museum.
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