FINLAND – It is truly a strange story: Four young Israelis, who each made a quick exit in high-tech or real estate, bought a Finnish island. It’s as simple as that.
The price: 450, 000 euros. The goal: To build an Israeli colony on it. Officially, the island is known as Petäjäsaari, but already upon disembarking from the plane in the town of Kuopio, after a half hour flight from Helsinki, Finnish media report on “The Israeli Island, ” and television crews are wooing the four Israeli owners for an interview. And on the streets of Kaavi, from which we will sail to the island, people come up to them to shake their hands, some speak of Moshe Dayan, the most admired figure there.
“We don’t have any Jews in Kuopio, and we have never had any, ” explains the old city historian Seppo Kononen excitedly, while the mayor, who prepared an especially festive welcome, adds: “We always wanted foreign investors here, and Israelis’ reputation precedes them.”
One would be hard pressed to say that the four – Aviad Scheibitz, Amir Weil, Moti Shemtovi and Asaf Giller- have a well-established reputation in Israel. In fact, they are almost entirely unknown. But in the quiet Finland there is a lot of excitement. Excitement, but also suspicion, at least from the media, which is wondering whether the four are actually straw men for oligarchs from Russia – the not-so-liked neighbor to the east – and asked outright: What the hell are four Israelis looking for here? Even the Mossad was brought up.
But for the average Israeli, there is no need for theories of espionage to decipher the pull of the island to real estate investors. In Finland, which has more than 100, 000 lakes and no less than 188, 000 islands, all of Israel’s real estate problems sound like a depressing joke. There is a little over 5 million inhabitants who live comfortably in Finland on less than 340, 000 square kilometers, with a huge supply of land and islands that one can buy for as little as 150, 000 euros – so no one is really fighting over land here.