I never expected to see the spectacle that occurred Friday morning at a local branch of Bank Mizrachi-Tefahot in the city of Netanya. Friday mornings are always are always a bit hectic in banks but what occurred there was completely unexpected as the usual morning sounds were suddenly filled with the shrill blasts of whistles blown by a large group of what appeared to be very unhappy people. When I asked the bank clerk what the commotion was all about, she simply said: “Oh, I think it’s some kind of demonstration.”
And a demonstration it certainly was, as the entrance foyer of the bank, and the passageway to the entrance outside was filled with people shouting, blowing whistles and holding scores of signs and banners. Out on Smilansky Street in front of the back, things were heating up even more, with the demonstrators shouting for people to not only avoid going into the bank, but to close their accounts there as well.
One tall blonde lady, holding a white paper pad with a number of name on it said she was soliciting a petition to put pressure on the banks’ main branch to assist them concerning their being cheated out of their money when they purchased apartments in a project that was being built by the now bankrupt Heftsiba Construction company, which has lately been broadcast considerably in the news.
By this time several police cars had arrived as well as what appeared to by a television news crew to film the event. With all this going on I knew that the was more serious than I had originally thought, especially when a young guy named Daniel pulled me aside and begin explaining what it was all about. He said that he and 126 others had purchased apartments in a project called Green towers located in the new residential area known as Kiryat Hasharon, located not far from Netanya’s academic college. He said that everyone who had purchased apartments from Heftsiba had deposited money in a trust account at Mizrachi-Tefahot and that when the company went bankrupt they tried to obtain their funds from the bank. It was only later that they found out that the monies that were supposed to be kept in for them had been given by the bank to Heftsiba to pay off the company’s numerous creditors. Heftsiba’s CEO, Boaz Yona is still incarcerated in Milan Italy while legal proceedings continue to have him extradited to Israel to face numerous charges of fraud and larceny concerning unfinished building projects all over Israel, including Netanya.
Daniel said that although the issue was taken to court, and a compromise solution was worked out concerning completing the building project, it wasnâ€™t acceptable by him and the other purchasers since they would be required to pay an additional N.S. 500,000 each. I asked Daniel who had worked out the compromise plan, and he answered immediately: “It was done through the offices of the bank’s CEO Eli Younis in Tel Aviv. And even if all of Boaz Yona’s personal assets are liquidated, they wouldn’t be enough to pay even a part of what his company owes us”.
“To make matters worse, many people are literally living in the streets, as they sold their apartments to purchase the new one in Green Towers. Many of us are now paying a mortgage payment to Mizrachi-Tefahot as well as rental payments for temporary housing, and we don’t have any property to look forward to”, Daniel continued. And Daniel and his unfortunate fellow purchasers are wondering if they’ll ever see either their money or receive the keys to a newly completed apartment.
And until that day should come, they will continue to meet every Friday morning in front of the bank, armed with petitions, placards, and their whistles.
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