Before 2017 fades away in the rear-view mirror, we take a look back at some of our favorite stories to have come across the wire in the land of Israel. From shekel news, to record-setting economic data, new olim, and more, here are our editorial team’s top ten picks of 2017.
10. El Al Goes Back to the Beach
A surge in real estate dealings between Miami and Israel has cleared the runway for El Al to resume direct flights between the Magic City and the Holy Land three times a week for the fist time in a decade. The Miami route is El Al’s sixth in North America, and is the first in Florida (again) and the southeastern United States.
9. Israeli Banks Toughen Requirements for Dual Nationals
In what many are calling unreasonable demands, several Israeli banks tightened their requirements for dual citizens, in some cases leading to the freezing of bank accounts for those who failed to comply. The controversial changes sparked a great deal of debate as financial institutions look to limit their risk.
8. Who Says You Can’t Go Home???
“More than 2,700 years after their ancestors were exiled from the Land, the Bnei Menashe are returning home. Our task now is to ensure that they truly feel at home as well,” was the statement of Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, following the Aliyah of 102 immigrants. Long believed to be the lost tribe of Menashe, the most recent arrival in May added to the 3,000 others who have returned home to Israel in recent years.
7. Tax Revenue Goes Up As Divided Income Tax Rates Come Down
There was no shortage of good news at Israel’s October cabinet meeting when it was announced that State tax revenues set a new record for the second straight month, reaching 30.1 billion NIS. Helping to lead the way was approximately 12 billion NIS in unexpected revenue from the taxation discount, reduced to 25%, on dividends granted to controlling shareholders in private companies. Previously, income on dividends were taxed at 30-33%. As a result of the surplus revenue, the budget deficit reached a new low.
6. IsraTransfer Gets Some Love from I Googled Israel
It is always nice to receive a compliment, and more than one is even better. That was exactly the case when we were named a “Hot Aliyah Tip” by IGoogledIsreael.com. The travel blog focused exclusively on Israel gave our new Sending Money to Israel a nice plug, in addition to naming us “the best way to send money to Israel.” Thanks guys!
5. Netflix Makes Aliyah
While the summer weather was heating up outside, Israelis were treated to a dose of cool news when Netflix announced the official launch of their full Hebrew TV service – featuring 75% of their content available either dubbed or with Hebrew subtitles, plus original Israeli television series!
4. Taxing Matters for Israeli Investors
August brought good news to Israelis investing in the United States when a precedent-setting ruling recently issued by the US tax court changed the way foreigners are taxed in the US. Per the ruling, foreigners involved in business or investment activity in the US through a partnership can now sell their share of the partnership without paying US capital gains tax, with a special exception for cases where the partnership is involved in real estate activity in the US (FIRPTA). The decision could have implications for Israeli residents with some presence in the US, including US tax on bonuses, estate tax, and others, so checking with your tax adviser is highly recommended.
3. Very Creative Monetary Policy
Some serious change was made to the Israeli currency system in November with the roll-out of two new NIS bills, each featuring one of Israel’s finest female creative talents. Displayed on the 20 NIS bill is Rachel Bluwstein — known in Hebrew as Rachel the poetess. Not to be outdone, on the new 100 NIS bill features the portrait of Leah Goldberg, another of Israel’s most acclaimed poets and writers. Previously, former Prime Minister Golda Meir was the only woman to have been featured on Israeli currency, both on the 10 NIS bill (which was removed from circulation in the 1990s), and the 10,000 NIS bill, which was eliminated during the transition from the Shekel to today’s “New” Israeli Shekel in 1985.
2. Ending the Year on a Very Sweet Note
There was plenty of buzz surrounding Rosh Hashanah 2017, as Israel imported over 560 tons of honey ahead of the holiday in hopes of meeting the needs of its all-time high Israei population of 8.74 million people. In fact, to ensure there would be no shortfall, Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, even approved a tax exemption for honey imports. Interestingly enough, in early December Kahlon introduced legislation designed to improve the Israeli quality of life that featured a sweeping cancellation of import tax on a broad range of personal care products – let’s hope toothbrushes are on the list!
1. The Shekel Takes the Silver on the World Stage
Following a rise of 6.1% against the major global currencies over the past twelve months, and now approaching historically high levels, the shekel was named the world’s second strongest currency by Deutsche Bank in November. Coming in behind only the Chinese yuan, Deutsche predicts the shekel is due for a short-term decrease, and believes Bank of Israel will remain vigilant in its attempts to weaken the currency in the hopes of avoiding undermining exports.
To all our clients, we would like to thank you for your continued loyalty and support this past year, and we look forward to being of further service to you in 2018.
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