(photo credit: )
Israel has eight more millionaires, after nearly 76,000 people won prizes in Monday night's annual "Great Lottery," run by the State Lottery (Mifal Hapayis), including eight grand prize winners who won NIS 6.2 million apiece.
Only two of the eight had come forward to claim their winnings as of Tuesday evening. One of the winners had been unusually lucky, even by lottery standards: He placed his winning entry just 15 minutes before lottery stands closed at 11:15 p.m. on Monday.
"I feel I succeed in communicating with God," said the winner, a Gush Dan resident who asked to be identified simply as Moshe. "Time after time, He has stood by my side in my hour of need. Twice more in the past, I have won, because I knew how to request from Him what I needed."
Asked how he plans to spend his share of the NIS 50m. jackpot, Moshe said, "[My family's] current standard of living is medium plus. We never missed anything. But these winnings provide security for me, my children and my grandchildren."
Moshe will also pay back a loan, he said, while donating a tenth of his winnings to families in need whom he knows personally through volunteer work.
"Money is not everything in life," he said late Tuesday afternoon on Channel 10 News.
Moshe had placed another entry form earlier Monday afternoon, he said. By evening, however, he felt in his stomach that this entry was not a winner.
As a consequence, at 11 p.m., he left his house to enter the lottery again, with only 15 minutes remaining before Mifal Hapayis's booths closed.
"I knew inside of me that this was the winning ticket," Moshe said.
Monday night's lottery broadcast confirmed his intuition. While Moshe's original lottery card yielded no prize, his second ticket bore all the winning numbers: 2, 25, 28, 30, 36 and an "additional" number 33.
Moshe was not surprised that he won - having received, he said, God's assurances.
But he added: "I was so excited. Just to be safe, I kept the ticket under my pillow, and I told no one, including my wife."
The second jackpot winner chose to remain anonymous and declined to speak to the press.
Mifal Hapayis itself was not quite as fortunate, as ticket sales came to a close Monday night. The state lottery sold only about 1 million tickets - far less than the 1.6 million it sold during last year's NIS 50m. drawing.
But a moment of excitement came Monday at 7:30 p.m., when Israelis bought NIS 120,000 worth of tickets in one minute - a rate of NIS 2,000 per second. Mifal Hapayis CEO Saul Sotnik called it the "peak minute."
In total, 75,935 people won prizes. This number was higher than usual, though not significantly so, Mifal Hapayis spokesperson Dollim Melnick said.
Twenty-two second-prize winners will share NIS 5m., each receiving a prize of NIS 227,000, Melnick said. A total of 1,523 third-prize winners will split NIS 2m. (NIS 1,313 each), and 2,697 fourth-prize winners will receive NIS 265 each. Finally, 71,685 fifth-prize winners will take home NIS 50.
Melnick said 20 percent of Mifal Hapayis's revenues went to community projects such as homes, hospitals and gardens. Prize money represented 60% of revenues, she said, while the remainder paid for salaries, advertising and other expenses.
Lottery participants represent "a snap shot of Israel," Melnick said. They are "average people, wealthy people, all over the country... Everybody buys a ticket."
Despite lower ticket sales this year than in 2006, Mifal Hapayis is on track to meet its goal of NIS 4 billion in revenues for 2007, lottery chairman Shimon Katzenelson said in statement.
Melnick said ticket sales might have been lower than hoped for because of Mifal Hapayis's decision to hold the Great Lottery in July rather than in December, when the annual drawing had occurred prior to 2007.
"Maybe people are not walking in the street, because it is so hot," Melnick said. "Maybe people have a lot of expenses during the summer. It's likely we'll move back to December."
In addition to the Great Lottery, Mifal Hapayis holds six smaller raffles daily and a lotto twice a week. Grand prizes range from NIS 10,000 to NIS 20m.