Avraham ‘Beige’ Shochat: A man of action

Avraham Beige Shochat. Wikipedia, Jonathan Klinger

Today (Wednesday), Avraham Beige Shochat, one of the key figures in the history of the economy and development of the State of Israel, passed away. He was born in 1936 to the Shochat family, a well-known and powerful family in the Jewish community at the time, and grew up in Tel Aviv. The nickname “Beige” was given to him as a twist of a ‘feigle’ (small bird in Yiddish), and later he added the nickname to his official name. In his youth and during his military service, he participated in the Nachal outpost that established Kibbutz Nachal Oz near the Gaza Strip border. He met his wife Tama, the daughter of Levi Eshkol, then the Minister of Finance and later the Prime Minister.

In the early 60s, Beige and Tamma joined the project to establish a new city in the northeast of the Negev – Arad. Biga became a major figure in planning and execution, and in 1967 he became the first head of Arad’s council, a position he held for over 20 years. Arad became very special in the planning that accompanied its construction, and under the leadership of Beige became a symbol and a cultural centre, with events such as the Arad Festival, and a strong economic infrastructure.

In 1988, Beige turned to politics and was elected to the Knesset on behalf of the Labor Party. He served as chairman of the Finance Committee and was considered so professional that he remained in office even when his party moved to the opposition. In 1992, the Labor led by Rabbin won the election, and Beige was appointed Finance Minister, a position he continued to hold under Peres, and later under Barak. As Finance Minister, he helped greatly in the growth of the Israeli economy, bringing foreign investors to Israel, and passing various reforms – from health insurance to tax on the profits of the stock exchange.

In 2006 he retired from political life, and since then he has taken symbolic positions on various boards of directors, and was also a little involved in Tel Aviv politics – and even managed to participate in the elections yesterday, as the last representative on Ron Huldai’s list. Only a few weeks ago, his autobiography, ‘Between Desert and Finance’, was published, in which he summed up his life – a life full of action, execution and a great contribution to Israeli society and the establishment of the Jewish people in this country.

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