Today, in Zichron Yaacov, the Jewish Agency (JAFI) is holding a ceremony to honor Jewish communities for providing loan assistance worth 138 million NIS over the past decade. These loans facilitated the founding of 870 new small businesses in communities in the Israeli periphery. Amir Sznajderman, the Director of JAFI’s Unit for Economic Development and Loan Funds, told eJP, “due to these loan funds, over 5,000 jobs were created. Amongst the business owners are many young entrepreneurs and new immigrants.”
JAFI operates eight separate loan funds across Israel with contributions from global Jewish communities. These funds are available to entrepreneurs as seed funding for new businesses or for existing small business owners to expand their existing businesses.
Of the businesses which were founded, 28% are located in the Galilee, 34% in the Negev and 27% in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Many of the businesses (44%) were in the service and catering industries, 23% in the wholesale sector, 16% in manufacturing, 13% agriculture and 4% in tourism.
Following the upcoming chagim, JAFI plans to encourage business owners in these areas to apply to the loan funds for 2013, where approximately 30 million NIS will be available. The package of assistance includes a loan of up to 300,000 NIS, interest rates which are significantly lower than market rates, assistance in negotiating with the financial system, good credit conditions and assistance in finding professional advice. The loan funds include guarantees, without which many of these businesses would have struggled to get approval for a commercial loan.