In The News - July 26, 2012
|Ministries okay free parking across Tel Aviv for residents
Municipality hopes the move will benefit the city's drivers while encouraging outsiders to use public transportation.
The interior and transportation ministries have approved Tel Aviv's decision to lift parking fees for residents at blue-and-white-marked spots during the day. The municipality hopes the move will benefit the city's drivers while encouraging outsiders to use public transportation.
The change will take effect within the next few weeks. The decision will save Tel Aviv residents NIS 0.69 an hour while increasing the fee for non-Tel Aviv residents from NIS 5.5 to NIS 6 an hour, the maximum fee by law.
The municipality declared the changes six months ago but needed government approval. Other steps not requiring such approval were implemented four months ago; these included increased discounts for Tel Aviv residents at most city parking lots - from 50 percent to 75 percent of the price.
Officials said the municipality will take in around NIS 35 million less annually due to the changes.
Council member Tamar Zandberg (Meretz ) opposes the changes. "This whole move is intended to make it easier to park, contrary to our policy of promoting substitutes for cars: public transportation, bicycles and simply walking," she said.
"We're making such an effort to pave new bicycle lanes and encourage the use of public transportation. We're also encouraging parking possibilities, thus encouraging people to use their cars in the city center instead of other forms of transportation .... If the purpose was to improve the residents' quality of life, the opposite has been achieved, because residents of remote neighborhoods will come to the city center in their cars and take spaces reserved for the area's residents."
The municipality is aware that the changes will do little to solve the city's parking shortage, especially in the city center. Meanwhile, saving NIS 0.69 probably won't change drivers' parking habits much, and an extra NIS 0.50 won't seriously deter out-of-town drivers.
Mayor Ron Huldai said on Monday that public transportation remains the real solution. "Still, until the Transportation Ministry provides a long-term solution for residents and visitors in the form of an efficient metropolitan transport system, the municipality will do its best to help," Huldai said.
By Ilan Lior, Ha’aretz, July.17, 2012
|Battery Theft in Broad Daylight
I have witnessed too many cases in which an unscrupulous mechanic or electrician has stolen a battery out of a car with full compliance on the part of the hapless owner. In fact, the mark never knows that he is a victim. In this scam, an automotive mechanic or electrician gets a brand new battery at the victim's expense, while the victim thinks that he has gotten a great deal.
Here's a recent example of the scam in action. In this example, the mechanic is a man and the victim is a woman because that way it's easier to follow the story.
A woman I know discovered that her car wouldn't start, and called the towing agency linked to her car insurance company. The mechanic showed up shortly thereafter, and told her, correctly, that the battery was completely dead, unable to take a charge. He also told her that although the battery was only 16 months old, the guarantee on that kind of battery was only for 12 months. He offered to sell her a new one on the spot, with an 18 month guarantee, and would even take the old one off of her hands. She refused the offer, asked that he start the car, and drove it to an authorized garage. At the garage she was surprised to learn that she still had a two month guarantee on the old battery. The garage removed the battery from her car and sent it to the manufacturer for a replacement battery.
What's the mechanic's interest in replacing the battery? Getting someone to buy a new battery two months early? That's profitable, but it's possible to make a lot more money than that. His goal is to sell a new battery at full price, and get the old battery as a gift. He then returns that old battery into the company responsible for it, and they issue him a new battery, which he then sells at full retail price.
Every new battery has a date stamped onto it so that the dealer can know exactly when the battery was installed into the car. This prevents fraud on the part of the dealer as well as on the part of the customer. When the customer brings in a dead battery with a guarantee, a quick look at the battery is enough to determine when it was installed. Replacement batteries have no date stamped into them, as they are only guaranteed until the expiration of the original guarantee.
For instance, in this case, the battery was purchased on March 13, 2011. The guarantee will end on September 13, 2012. The replacement battery, even though it's brand new and will probably last at least 18 months is guaranteed only until September 13, 2012.
So what does the unscrupulous mechanic do with the battery? He sells it as new, offering his own written guarantee instead of the manufacturer's guarantee. If the battery lasts at least 18 months, which most do, he's made some profit on the new battery he just sold, in addition to receiving the full price for the battery he just got for free. This money goes directly to his own pocket, with no receipt, no V.A.T., and no income tax. If the battery dies before the 18 months are up, he has to give the new customer a new battery at his own expense, but he's still no worse off than he would have been had he been honest in the first palce.
In the case above, the mechanic was doubly unscrupulous. In most cases, the mechanic admits that the battery is near the end of its life, and says that it's not worth the hassle to jump start it, charge it, and try to use it. He claims that the next time it dies, it might be terribly inconvenient, as you might be stranded in the middle of nowhere, or in a great hurry to get somewhere, so the best thing to do is buy a new battery right away. If you try to say that you have a guarantee, he will patiently explain that the free replacement is made especially in the factory to last only a few months, so it's still a better idea to buy a new battery on the spot which will give you 18 months of uninterrupted service. However, in this case he informed the woman that there was no time left on the guarantee, because it was a foreign-made battery. This was not true, as the battery, which was indeed foreign-made, turned out to have an 18 month guarantee.
To sum up:
1. Your battery dies.
2. The mechanic discovers that the battery won't take a charge, even though it's under guarantee, and offers to sell you a new one on the spot.
The mechanic tells you falsely that the guarantee has ended, and offers to sell you a new battery on the spot.
3. The mechanic installs the new battery in your car, and takes the old one away.
4. The mechanic returns the old battery to the battery company for a replacement under the guarantee. He doesn't even need a proof of purchase, as the date of installation is stamped on the battery.
5. The mechanic sells the replacement battery as new, offering his own personal guarantee.
6. If the replacement battery lasts until at least the end of the guarantee, he's made a profit equal to the profit on the new battery sale plus the entire retail price of a brand new battery, between NIS 800 and NIS 1,500 in this country.
7. If the replacement battery fails early, he's still made a profit on the new battery sale.
Buy a battery from a company that guarantees you nation-wide service. Ask to see a list of the authorized garages, so that you can determine if they have a lot of locations.
Never buy a battery from someone who tells you that the guarantee is only valid at the point of sale.
Don't buy a new battery when the old battery still has time left on the original guarantee, even if it's only for a single day. The replacement will last for over a year.
Keep the guarantee for the battery in your car, so that you can refer to it if there's ever a problem. A reputable dealer will have a record of the sale, but knowing if your guarantee is still valid can help you make the correct decision when dealing with the repair personnel.
Sometimes the potential thief is his own boss. That makes filing a complaint complicated. If the potential thief works for a garage, dealer or auto parts store, consider a complaint to the management. This won't help you personally, but as the word gets out that people are complaining, thefts and attempted thefts will decrease.
Written by AACI life member, Daveed Shachar
July 18, 2012
One of last surviving founders of IAF recalls mission that stopped Egypt from advancing on
His story has inspired thousands and is retold in the corridors of the Israel Air Force’s training school with deep admiration.
But despite the 64 years that have passed, Lou Lenart has no doubt that everything comes down to destiny. Touted as the “man who saved Tel Aviv,” the 91-year-old Lenart recalls the fateful events of May 29, 1948 with great emotion and down to the smallest of details.
A few weeks ago, the IAF held a ceremony to honor Lenart, one of the last living pilots from the original group that founded it.
Few people actually remember the IAF’s first battle – yet it was so decisive for Israel that it is believed to have saved Tel Aviv from capture by Egyptian forces. On Thursday, Lenart will speak at a conference at Tel Aviv University about the mission.
Lenart, who today divides his time between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv, was born in 1921 in Hungary and immigrated to the United States with his family nine years later. A regular target for anti-Semitic beatings and taunts in a small town in Pennsylvania, Lenart said he learned early in life that he needed to be strong to survive. Accordingly, just weeks after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps.
By the end of his seven-year service in the Marines, Lenart fought in the Pacific and became a fighter pilot, flying missions in the Battle for Okinawa as well as attacks on the Japanese mainland. After the war, he learned that his relatives who had remained in Hungary had been killed in Auschwitz. Lenart returned to Los Angeles and began thinking about Israel, or as it was then known – Palestine.
“I knew that my people were being killed and my family had been killed in Auschwitz, and I felt that the remnants of the Holocaust had a right to life and some happiness – and no one wanted them except their own people in Israel,” he said.
Lenart joined forces with Al Schwimmer, the founder of Israel Aerospace Industries, who was then running a clandestine operation to smuggle aircraft to Israel. As a war veteran, he was eligible to buy surplus aircraft – and one day he was given $5,000, which he took into the California desert to buy a C-46 transport aircraft.
His next mission was in April 1948, to fly to Italy where the Hagana had located an abandoned airfield in the southern part of the country, from where they planned to take off towards Israel. The problem was that the planes had enough fuel for a 500 mile flight and the distance to Israel was 1,300 miles.
“We took out two of the seats and put in a rubber gas tank and connected it to the wing tank,” he said. “I sat in the cockpit for 11.5 hours watching the single engine spin in front of me, in what was the most dangerous and risky thing I ever did. We finally made it to Tel Aviv with Arabs firing on us from Jaffa.”
The planes immediately began dropping off supplies and evacuating the wounded from across the country.
A week later, Lenart was flown to Switzerland and then to Czechoslovakia where Schwimmer was disassembling Avia S-199 Mule combat aircraft that were supposed to be shipped to Israel. The dismantled planes arrived in Israel in late April and Lenart, together with a small group of pilots and mechanics, got to work putting them back together.
On May 29, 1948 after the planes had finally been assembled but before they had been flown, a jeep showed up at the hangar at the Tel Nof Air Force Base where Lenart and the crew were working.
“It was 4 p.m. and a jeep rushes in with Shimon Avidan, commander of the Givati Brigade,” Lenart said. “He heard we had airplanes and said that six miles from where we were near Ashdod, there were 15,000 Egyptian soldiers and 500 vehicles and tanks stopped because Givati had blown up a bridge. But if we didn’t stop them that night they would fix the bridge and be in Tel Aviv the next morning – and there would be no Israel.”
Lenart did not waste any time. He gathered the small group of three other pilots – Ezer Weizman, Eddie Cohen and Modi Alon – and explained they would be heading out for their first mission to stop the Egyptian advance on Tel Aviv.
As the leader, Lenart flew in first, diving down over a group of vehicles, dropping his bombs and luckily hitting a fuel truck, setting off a number of secondary explosions. The other pilots followed suit and then began strafing the ground troops with machine gun fire.
Later that day, the Egyptians gave up trying to reach Tel Aviv and turned east to join the Jordanians near Jerusalem. The bridge where the Egyptians were stopped would later be called “Ad Halom,” Hebrew for “Until Here.”
“It was the most important moment of my life and I was born to be there that precise moment in history,” Lenart said. “I am the luckiest man in the world that my destiny brought me to that precise moment, to be able to contribute to Israel’s survival.”
Looking at what he refers to as the IAF’s “humble beginnings” and where it is today, Lenart claimed Israel has the best air force in the world.
“We cannot afford to be less than the best, and the other reason is that we have been fighting wars practically every day and we are fighting for our lives,” he said.
Lt.-Col. (res.) Danny Grossman, who like Lenart flew in the US military and made aliya to fly in the IAF, said that Lenart served as a personal example not only for American Jews but for Jews everywhere.
“He symbolizes the spirit of volunteerism, combined with dedication to the mission and the sense of higher purpose that gives meaning to our existence in the reborn State of Israel,” Grossman said.
By Yaakov Katz, 16/07/2012
|Maximum price on gasoline expected to rise Aug. 1 by 5.5%
Gasoline prices will be rising by about 40 agorot a liter as of the beginning of August, a 5.5% increase, if current projections in the industry are accurate. The government usually sets the maximum sales price of gasoline based upon prevailing prices in Europe at the end of the month.
The price is also affected by the dollar-shekel exchange rate. European oil prices have risen over the past month and the shekel has weakened. The maximum retail price of gas here is based upon prices in Europe for five days beginning today, so the estimate regarding the increase is only preliminary. If industry expectations are borne out, a liter of self-serve regular will cost NIS 7.67 as of August 1.
By Itai Trilnick, theMarker, Ha'aretz, Monday July 23, 2012
|VAT hike to push up new home prices
The VAT hike raises home prices as the government is trying to market more land for residential building to lower prices.
The VAT hike that the cabinet will probably approve tomorrow will make the most expensive item a family buys - a new apartment from a contractor - even more expensive. The one percent VAT hike will add NIS 10,000 to every NIS 1 million purchase on a new home - NIS 170,000 up from the current NIS 160,000.
The extra NIS 9,000 VAT on the purchase of a new NIS 900,000 apartment (NIS 153,000 instead of NIS 144,000) will add an extra salary to the 127 average national salaries currently needed to buy this home.
New home sales account for a fifth of all home sales a year, while the rest are purchases of second-hand homes. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 19,231 new homes were sold in 2011, and according to the Ministry of Housing and Construction, the average new home price was NIS 1.36 million in January 2012.
The VAT on an average new home will rise by NIS 13,600 from NIS 217,600 to NIS 231,200. Multiply this by the number of new homes sold in 2011 - 19,231 - the VAT hike will generate NIS 261.5 million.
The VAT hike raises home prices just when people are protesting the high cost of living, and while the government is trying to market more land for residential construction in order to lower home prices, which have fallen slightly over the past 12 months. Just last Thursday, Minister of Housing and Construction Ariel Atias announced that land for 4,200 housing units will be marketed. More than once, he has said that VAT on the purchase of a first home should be cancelled altogether.
The real estate industry is furious. Just last week, top industry officials called an idea by National Economics Council chairman Eugene Kandell to bring in contractors to build homes "ridiculous". Today, Israel Real Estate Appraiser Association chairman Ohad Dannus told "Globes", "The Israeli government should exempt real estate from the VAT hike, and cancel it altogether for the purchase of a first apartment by a young couple."
Dannus added, "Raising VAT on housing is both very problematic and it is bad, to put it mildly, for the real estate market, which has been seeking direction for the past year. Why raise VAT for young couples and for people who are buying their first and only apartment? On the contrary! Instead of raising VAT, the government should cancel it altogether and allow many people who cannot currently buy a modest home of their home, to buy one.
"A VAT exemption would revive the dormant housing market, and allow many more deals. Moreover, even for people buying their second apartment, including investors, there is no point in raising VAT, because the harm from the cancellation of hundreds of real estate deals will be several time greater than the alleged advantage from raising VAT."
Dannus warns, "A VAT hike will raise prices for new homes, and their prices will indirectly affect prices for second-hand homes." The VAT hike will also raise the cost of sales services, such as for the real estate agent and lawyer. For example, for a NIS 1 million purchase, the prevailing agent's fee of 2% is NIS 20,000, on which the VAT will rise from NIS 3,200 to NIS 3,400.
Association of Contractors and Builders in Israel president Nissim Bublil said, "A sweeping VAT hike of one percentage point will make the young couple's dream of buying an apartment more remote. Although the tax is levied across the whole economy, the construction industry is the most leveraged industry in the economy, and an extra 1% to the price of a new apartment could be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
Einat Paz-Frankel, Globes, 29 July 2012
|Purchase tax exemption on televisions, DVD players to be revoked
The purchase tax on home entertainment systems generates no more than NIS 500 million a year.
The Ministry of Finance will cancel the purchase tax exemption on home entertainment systems, including televisions and DVDs - even before the exemption comes into effect.
The purchase tax on home entertainment systems generates no more than NIS 500 million a year. The Ministry of Finance has decided that it is not worthwhile foregoing this revenue, and is therefore cancelling the exemption, even before it was due to take effect, as part of the fiscal package that will be submitted to the cabinet tomorrow to deal with the budget hole.
Earlier this month, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz signed a directive cutting customs duties on hundreds of electronic consumer products, ranging from vacuum cleaners to microwave ovens, as part of the Trajtenberg Committee recommendations to increase competition and lower the cost of living.
Adrian Filut, Published by Globes, Israel business news - July 29, 2012