Despite the constant threat from many of its neighbors, Israel is home to a sizable number of billionaires who’ve made their mark on the world through various successful business ventures. This country has a hefty GDP of $273.2 billion and a population of around 7,800,000. The per capita GDP for Israel is $36,200 and the country’s main exports are considered pharmaceuticals, technological equipment and processed diamonds.
To attain the wealth of even the least rich billionaire on this list, the average Israeli would have to work more than 33,149 years to accumulate the same fortune. Despite inequality and undeniable strife in this country, the richest people in Israel do participate in philanthropic activities that improve healthcare, the environment and even the Israel-Palestine relationship.
15. Lev Leviev – $1.2 billion
Lev Leviev is president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia. Born in Uzbekistan, his family left for Israel in 1971. He made his fortune hustling to outmaneuver the De Beers in diamond distribution and sales, connecting with buyers thanks to better pricing than his main competitor. Despite poorly performing investments in U.S real estate, his jewelry business continues to thrive, with upscale retail locations in Dubai, New York and London.
14. Mori Arkin – $1.2 billion
Along with his father, Mori Arkin grew Agis Industries from a local supplier into a large generic pharmaceutical manufacturer, before selling it for over $800 million to pharma giant Perrigo. In addition to owning a part of Perrigo, his investments include fifteen medical startups and a stake in Hapoalim, the biggest bank in Israel.
13. Shaul Shani – $1.3 billion
One of the more secretive billionaires on this list, Shaul Shani is known mostly for his successful investments in the tech industry. He started Global Village Telecom, a Brazilian company that was bought for $4.5 billion a decade later.
His first tech company began in 1982 under the name of Oshap Technologies, followed by Sapiens and Tecnomatix, all of which were purchased by investors. Shani’s latest move involves the purchase of ECI Telecom from his investing partners after the company’s value dropped by a fifth over the past seven years.
12. Marius Nacht – $1.6 billion
Marius Nacht was part of Talpiot as a member of an elite army group in Israel, in addition to university degrees in math, electrical engineering and physics. He’s combined all of these skills in Check Point Software Technologies, a firm he started along with fellow billionaire Gil Shwed. His cybersecurity company recently gained nearly a third in value after a dip in 2012.
11. Alexander Machkevitch – $1.8 billion
After being removed from the London Stock Exchange after losing 43% of its value in six years, Alexander Machkevitch’s Eurasian Natural Resources Co., based in Kazakhstan, was under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom while enduring a lawsuit against his International Mineral Resources company.
Despite these issues, he finds time to help advance Jewish causes while serving the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress as honorary president. His self-made billions were derived mostly from mining activities.
10. Dan Gertler – $2.1 billion
Dan Gertler followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was president of the Israeli Diamond exchange when it first began. He used his diamond wealth to expand into other industries, like gold and fossil fuels. Currently, his African mining activities are under increased scrutiny due to allegations of benefiting from close ties to the Congo government, especially Joseph Kabila.
Gertler counters these claims through plans to release documents from Africa mining deals. He also comments that he’s the largest source of private employment and among the top taxpayers while the Gertler Family Foundation develops over 1,400 acres of agriculture to help combat hunger.
9. Gil Shwed – $2.2 billion
Founded in 1993 along with co-founders Marius Nacht and Shlomo Kramer, Gil Shwed made his fortune through Check Point Software Technologies. After Shlomo Kramer left the group to work at Palo Alto Networks with an engineer from Check Point, Shwed and Nacht steadied the firm against this and other challenges to thrive with a gain of 30% over the last twelve months.
8. Teddy Sagi – $2.2 billion
Teddy Sagi made his billions through gambling software, creating Playtech in 1999 which made it to the London Stock Exchange in 2006. He also runs Trade FX and SafeCharge, online companies involved in trade and secure payments. The sale of William Hill Online for $700 million caused his 49% share in Playtech to rise by 30% just over a year ago, solidifying his membership in the billionaire club.
7. Beny Steinmetz – $2.6 billion
Beny Steinmetz is another billionaire involved in controversy, after he acquired rights to a gigantic iron ore reserve for free from a former dictator in Guinea. Steinmetz then sold the property to Vale, a Brazilian mining company, reaping a tidy profit of $2.5 billion, $500 million of which he’s received. He started his business career with his dad’s diamond company and is now the chairman of Steinmetz Diamond Group.
6. Yitzhak Tshuva – $2.8 billion
As a self-made billionaire whose family arrived in Israel from Libya when he was a baby, Yitzhak Tshuva began his climb by developing low-income real estate before diversifying his holdings, eventually benefiting from his properties in London and Manhattan. His energy company, Delek Group, recently became involved in an Australian natural gas reserve, causing their value to rise rapidly, which doubled Yitzhak’s net worth in about a year.
5. Idan Ofer – $4.5 billion
Son of shipping giant Sammy Ofer, Idan owns a large variety of business ventures around the world that involve drilling, automotive, mining and shipping. He also inherited half his father’s art collection, rumored to be one of the best in the world.
His latest plan is to move to London, where he recently gave $42 million to the London Business School. The money will go towards refurbishing and renaming buildings, at least one of which will be renamed in his honor.
4. Arnon Milchan – $4.6 billion
Arnon Milchan is a self-made billionaire involved in Hollywood productions. He recently revealed that he participated in secret intelligence work with the Israeli government in the 1980s, developing a nuclear program.
He’s also a former football professional who saved his family’s fertilizer business by turning it into a $125 million dollar company involved with fiber optics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, agriculture and even aerospace.
3. Shari Arison – $4.9 billion
With holdings in Shikun & Binui Holdings, Bank Hapoalim and Carnival Corporation, Shari Arison is the richest woman in Israel and received much of her wealth from her late father. She focuses a lot of her attention on philanthropic activities by donating to numerous NPOs that help foster educational, healthcare and environmental programs and research. Her most recent book is “Activate Your Goodness: Transforming the World Through Doing Good.”
2. Stef Wertheimer – $5.3 billion
Winner of the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2010, Stef Wertheimer has dedicated much time, money and effort to improving relations between Israel and Palestine.
His projects include creating free work spaces for startups from regions with poor economic outlooks. He also made almost a billion dollars in the past year for selling Iscar to Warren Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway.
1. Eyal Ofer – $6.7 billion
Like his brother Idan, Eyal inherited much of his wealth through his father’s shipping empire. He’s spent time expanding his half of the art collection he inherited, acquiring numerous modern and contemporary pieces. He also owns real estate in Greenwich Village and New York in addition to stakes in banking and shipping businesses.