Echoes of the COVID-19 crisis
For Sarah Amsallem, a health coach based in Tel Aviv who made aliyah from France, the war evoked memories of the climate for small businesses during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Amsallem halted her work as a personal trainer and focused exclusively on the nutrition side of her business, which caused her to lose a significant portion of her clients.
This time around, receiving a wartime loan from SparkIL helped Amsallem maintain a focus not only on the present but also on the future of her business.
“I’ve worked hard to develop my business, and I want it to grow,” she said. “I now have funds to boost communication efforts and purchase new equipment.”
COVID-19 taught Milman that the Israeli government alone does not have the capacity to provide the full extent of assistance that small businesses require during an economic crisis.
“Many of us needed to reinvent ourselves during COVID, and now many of us need to do so again,” she said. “We don’t really have a safety net.”
Today, Israel’s small businesses are experiencing a severe personnel shortage, given the 360,000 reservists called up by the Israel Defense Forces, while many businesses in industries such as tourism have been closed or have pivoted to tending to the needs of evacuees. With the Israeli government offering an insufficient grant to small businesses affected by the war, the SparkIL Emergency Loan Fund is substantially increasing the assistance that is available to those businesses at this time.
“Our goal is to provide the victims of the war and of the economic crisis with immediate assistance, particularly through a quick and seamless process with minimal bureaucracy,” said Sagi Balasha, CEO of The Ogen Group, one of SparkIL’s founding partners along with The Jewish Agency for Israel.
The road ahead
In the long run, the war’s economic toll could be severe. Estimates from the Bank of Israel forecast the war to cost Israel roughly $53 billion between now and 2025, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. predicts that Israel’s gross domestic product will shrink 11% this quarter on an annualized basis.
However, small business owners like Milman are remaining cautiously optimistic.
“I’m so grateful that people are still looking for me and want my services, but it’s tough,” she said.
Meanwhile, as Israelis continue to navigate the economic challenges of wartime, SparkIL’s Emergency Loan Fund stands ready to channel the power of Jewish unity for the purpose of providing a lifeline to businesses across the country that are affected by the war.
“SparkIL helps put the mutual responsibility the Jewish people have for one another into action,” said Amira Ahronoviz, CEO and director-general at The Jewish Agency for Israel. “The loans granted by SparkIL will help small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Israel survive this challenging period and allow supporters around the world to connect with Israel in a meaningful and impactful way.” ■