Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA) has raised and is distributing $3 million to answer the needs of small businesses in southern Israel, hardest hit by the situation. In order to assist all those who have requested help, IFLA must raise at least an additional $2 million.
The security reality in southern Israel throughout Operation Protective Edge has caused extreme hardship among small business owners forced to keep their businesses, which serve as a sole source of livelihood, closed for an extended amount of time.
300 business owners from the south have turned to IFLA to request loans, and the requests continue to arrive daily. To date, over 100 of these special loans have been approved and will help borrowers manage the cash flow of their businesses which have been hurt throughout the military conflict.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, IFLA has succeeded in raising $3 million for small businesses under fire and is providing interest free loans of 45,000 ILS each, as it has done in similar situations in the past.
“Your help was the fastest and most effective. Last time, businesses applied to the government for eventual compensation and aid, but IFLA was the quickest to respond and help these people in their most urgent time of need. These businesses need you once again,” remarked Sergei Bargon, Ashkelon Small Business Advisor, as the conflict escalated in July 2014.
IFLA has decided to expand these loans to small businesses hurt by the situation beyond the 40 kilometer range from Gaza. The loans are provided through an expedited application process and a manageable and graduated repayment plan (repayments of 300 ILS per month for the first year) and serve as immediate assistance.
The Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA) – A source of assistance, a sustainable model
The Israel Free Loan Association is a non-profit organization which as part of its regular activity provides small businesses with interest-free loans of up to 90,000 ILS. These small businesses are defined as having a monthly net income of no more than 150,000 ILS and are challenged in securing financing from other sources. IFLA provides interest free loans of up to 30,000 ILS to students, young couples, single parents, and other Israelis who are working yet challenged to make ends meet.
IFLA was established in 1990 by Eliezer Jaffe, a professor of social work and co-founder of Hebrew University’s Center for the Study of Philanthropy, to assist in the absorption of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia to Israel. Throughout the years, IFLA has expanded its loan categories and has provided loans in the cumulative amount of over $200 million. More than 99% of the loan monies are returned to IFLA, which allows for them to be “recycled” and loaned out again to additional borrowers. Those who established a named loan fund receive an annual report of their fund and the loans distributed from it and repaid to it. IFLA currently manages over 400 such loan funds.
Small Business Borrowers – Operation Protective Edge
Alberto and Mirta Eizen made Aliyah from Argentina to Israel on July 30, 2003 and settled in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. There, the Eizens operate their small business- a housewares store in the mall. Over the years, the business has had to weather the multiple instances of military conflict in the region. Why should a housewares store have to weather military conflict? It shouldn’t. However these military conflicts have continually included rocket attacks on cities throughout the area, including Ashdod.
Exactly eleven years from the day the Eizens first arrived in Ashdod, they were approved for an emergency interest-free small business loan from IFLA. According to Alberto, business while the south was under constant attack was “dead.” Small businesses often serve as the sole source of livelihood for their owners and their families, and when a business is forced to close during these military conflicts, because of a lack of proper shelter, staff unable to show up to work, and simply no business, these families lose necessary income.
About the Author: A Los Angeles native, Judi made Aliyah to Israel in 2002 and today is part of the team at IFLA- the Israel Free Loan Association in Jerusalem.
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