Pesach Loans – Only in Israel!

Yesterday I had an unusual customer service experience with a Bank Leumi representative. I phoned (because with my limited Hebrew I couldn’t find the correct link on their site) with the goal of transferring money from our savings to our checking account. The conversation went something like this:

Me (impatiently after more than 15 minutes of being on hold and passed around until they found someone who spoke English): “Hi, I’d like to transfer 1800 shekels from my savings to my checking account.”

Motti (not his real name – he’s speaking in Israeli accented English): “Tehillah, I’m looking at your accounts right now and I cannot do that transfer because your account is a 4-year investment savings plan. The money can’t be taken out for 4 years. But I can stop the direct withdrawal that funds it if you want.”

Me (in the tone of an annoyed New Yorker): “I don’t remember being told that when I opened the account. I need that money to make Pesach!”
(Note: I opened that account the first month we arrived in Israel and probably was told this in Hebrew or broken English and just didn’t understand the concept).

Motti (in a calm, confident tone): “Yes, you were told of this when you opened the account, maybe you forgot. I can stop the direct withdrawal beginning April 5th and you’ll have until June 5th to have it started again if you’d like.”

Me (choking back tears of disbelief): “But that isn’t going to help me make Pesach.”

Motti: “I can offer you a Pesach loan. Let me see what I have available. Yes I can give you between 2000 and 5500 shekels. Do you want me to do that for you?”

Me: “You can give me a loan just like that? But then I’ll be paying interest instead of earning it.”

Motti: “Yes. For example, if you take 2000 shekels and we make it for 12 months the interest is 87 shekels for the year. The rate is 7.95% and the payments will be about 173 shekels per month. You can have two years if you need.”

Me: “If I take it can I pay it off before the 12 months without paying all the interest or a penalty?”

Motti: “Yes. These loans are to be sure that people can make Pesach, not for Bank Leumi to make a lot of money. I can have the money in your account tomorrow morning.”

According to online banking the money was in my account last night.

To put this in proper perspective, I’ve been doing business with this bank for less than two years and don’t keep much money in my accounts – and I don’t have an employer.

In America if I had phoned my (Jewish owned) bank (which happened to also be my employer) and was unable to withdraw the needed funds, I am confident that I would not have been offered a loan – and certainly NOT a PESACH LOAN delivered to my account before the close of business! Nor would I have had the mazal of dealing with a compassionate human being and a bank that wants to ensure that their customers have a happy Pesach. Instead I would have had to use a credit card (most likely at a higher interest rate) to accomplish this shopping if I couldn’t access my savings for some reason – and there would have been no human interaction involved.

Here in the Holy Land we are surrounded by opportunities to receive and give chesed constantly, thus connecting Jew to Jew. It’s all part of the Master Plan. Why not come home and play your part in it?


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