Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber visited branches of Mercantile Discount Bank, Bank Leumi and Bank Hapoalim in Kfar Kassem on Thursday.  The visits were part of a tour of branches that the Supervisor conducts on a regular basis throughout Israel.  MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) also participated in the visits.


The Supervisor and MK Frej spoke with managers and employees of the banks, as well as with a number of customers, and gained a good impression of the activity at the branches.  The banking system has greatly expanded its activity among the Arab community in recent years, and this is reflected in a significant increase in the number of branches in Arab localities, which stands in stark contrast to the continuing decline in the number of branches in the banking system as a whole.  In addition to the increase, there is a marked increase in credit to households and small businesses, and an increase in other banking services.


Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber said, “In recent years, many banks have significantly increased the number of branches that have opened in localities within the Arab sector, as the sector and its activity have grown.  The increase in the number of branches is even more prominent in view of the decline in the number of bank branches in the large cities.  By focusing on the Arab sector, the banks are increasing competition, which benefits the private and business customers in the sector.”


MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) said, “There is no dispute that in recent years, banking services have become more available to the Arab community.  Where we once were used to traveling to neighboring cities to visit a bank branch, today the bank branches have come to Kfar Kassem and to many other Arab localities, and this is a welcome development.  The authorities must ensure the personal safety of the bankers and customers in those branches, and must also increase supervision over the provision of exaggerated credit, which may lead people to a situation in which they cannot meet the burden of payments.  They must also make sure to prevent discrimination in interest rates between the Jewish and Arab sectors.


“Another issue that it would be good for the banks to continue advancing is the contribution to the community. The promotion of financial education for teens, and community involvement and promotion, are basic conditions for strengthening the banks’ connection with the communities in which they operate.  The banks make tremendous contributions to the community, but it is important that a significant part of those contributions and that community involvement come directly to the Arab society.”

In photos:
The Supervisor of Banks Dr. Hedva Ber, MK Issawi Frej, and Poalim, Leumi, and Mercantile Teams.