Monday, August 31, 2009
TEL AVIV - The office door has a steel vault veneer, and Shari Arison -- controlling stockholder in Israel's largest bank and its largest construction company, heiress to the Carnival Cruise Lines fortune and head of a long list of other undertakings -- has a lot to protect.
And as with any proper vault, this one is full of surprises.
Fairy figurines fill a knickknack shelf, and paintings of fairies hang from the soft-toned walls. Statues of dolphins leap from a cream-colored carpet, and goldfish gurgle in a tank just behind a chair. A yard-long see-through candleholder with a dozen flickering votives is angled across Arison's desk, looking like it connects to Kabbalah or the Upanishads or Area 51 or Something Larger Than Us, but which she says is there just because.
But the biggest jolt comes from the woman in the executive chair: Arison -- billionaire ($2.7 by Forbes's most recent estimate), perhaps the richest woman in the Middle East, a major force in Israeli philanthropy -- claims that she can see the future.
This is much bigger than a parlor trick. In her new book published this summer in Israel, the 51-year-old Miami native says she felt the Indonesian tsunami sweeping over the land two months before it happened and sensed Hurricane Katrina pummeling New Orleans. In an interview, Arison says she also "saw the writing on the wall" before the global economic crash. Reading about Arison's extrasensory perception makes you ache for a heads-up, maybe a blog entry or a tweet or a phone call to Brownie or Greenspan or somebody who might have helped.
Arison explains that she has finally dropped the fear that has held her back from doing more about what she has perceived. Armed with the insight gained through work with Florida-based psychiatrist Brian Weiss, a proponent of regression therapy and the exploration of (take your pick) deep memories or past lives, she says she is ready to go public with her visions and bring together her spiritual and business goals.
"Dr. Weiss told me during these meetings that one day I will have a significant role in world peace, but at that time I did not know what he was talking about and I could not cope with the idea," Arison writes in "Birth: When the Material and Spiritual Come Together," published in Hebrew as a hybrid memoir, corporate vision statement and collection of speeches. A possible English edition is in negotiation, according to an Arison representative.
"Over the years I suffered much from the visions, the feelings and these messages . . . I prayed they would go away. They brought much pain to my life. This was the preparation for the current phase, the phase in which I am ready to declare what I know with courage and without fear."
And according to her book, the visions are getting nicer.
"There is still difficulty and pain in them, but they are going and fading away," Arison writes. "If in the past, the visions were always harsh, catastrophic, violent -- recently I can see the new world. The quiet, the calm and the freedom it will have. This is a very comforting knowledge for me because I already know that what I envision materializes."
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