Comment: A society fraying at the edges

Anyone who's had to deal with the Israeli banking system has probably felt like exploding in anger at some point.

May 20, 2013 20:35
2 minute read.
Police and EMS workers outside Beersheba bank where shooting took place, May 20, 2013

Beersheba bank tragedy390(3)). (photo credit: Rotem Regev)


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Anyone who’s had to deal with the Israeli banking system has probably felt like exploding in anger at some point. Between the exorbitant fees for every little transaction, the long lines and the general philosophy of ‘You don’t have an alternative, you have to deal with us so we can do whatever the hell we want,’ Israeli banks are a well-documented horror story that can leave the most mild-mannered client on the verge of hysteria.

Bank Hapoalim is typical of the rich-get-richer-while-the-working-class-suffers scenario, with net profits in 2012 of NIS 2.54 billion.

Its CEO Zion Kenan earned NIS 8.1 million last year and the bank’s chairman Yair Seroussi earned NIS 8.39 million, some of it on the backs of the salaried customers who are run through the financial wringer at every turn, until they are dried up.

Those numbers are certainly obscene, but in no way do they excuse or provide any motive whatsoever for the atrocity committed Monday at the Bank Hapoalim Jabotinsky Street branch in Beersheba.

However, anyone who has dug himself a financial hole – with suffocating overdraft interest rates, increasing housing costs and price increases insuring the continuation of the downbound train – will probably have an snippet of understanding of what might have gone through Itamar Alon’s mind when the bank apparently rejected his appeal to extend his credit line for NIS 6,000 to help pay his mortgage.

A friend noted on Monday that when she sought some mortgage release during a tough stretch a couple years ago, she was told by her bank, “We’re a business. We’re not here to help you.”

Indeed, a business it is. And apparently, in their “eyes on the prize” profit-making mode, there is no room for sentimentality or compassion.

Without entering into the increasingly disturbing trend of licensed carriers of firearms turning them on innocent victims, it’s becoming apparent that our society is fraying at its seams. It’s more difficult, if not impossible, for families to make ends meet.

And the safety net that is supposed to help those in need is full of holes. The social protest movement and the Yair Lapid phenomenon is an obvious response to the gaping problem, but is it a case of too little, too late?

A recent report released by the Jerusalem-based Taub Center for Social Policy warned of the alarming trend, saying that Israel “is a country brimming with outstanding potential. At the same time, it is advancing along very steady multi-decade socioeconomic trajectories that are simply unsustainable for the future.”

For some people, like Itamar Alon and his victims, that future arrived yesterday.

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