n a show of solidarity, the board of directors of Bank Hapoalim held its annual meeting in Sderot last Thursday, while rockets fell around them.
“We are trying to help in any way we can,” explained Ofra Preus, a spokeswoman for the bank. “We want to show that we are a global bank with a soul in Israel.”
Bank Hapoalim, one of Israel’s two largest banks, has more than 250 branches in Israel, including one in Sderot, which the board of directors visited, as well as branches in more than 20 other countries.
The idea of holding the board meeting in Sderot rather than at the bank’s headquarters in Tel Aviv came to Dani Dankner, chairman of the bank, the day before the actual gathering, after seeing the news of dozens of rockets falling on the town, which has been under almost daily siege for years.
Dankner proposed to the 15 members of the board that they meet the next day in Sderot, and they all readily agreed, said Jay Pomrenze, a member of the board of directors.
Pomrenze said that on Thursday, after visiting the local branch and then meeting with the grateful mayor, the board held its discussions at a local community center on business plans for the coming year. “There were five rockets we heard,” Pomrenze said, “but no one was afraid.” He said that holding the meeting in Sderot “was as important as any business issue we discussed.”
Pomrenze, a former top executive of Bankers Trust in New York who subsequently made aliyah, added that the meeting in Sderot was not done for publicity — the event was not reported in the Israeli press — and was the only case of its kind either he or Preus could recall.
Dankner is known for caring about helping Israelis in distress and taking personal action. During the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, he not only kept open bank branches in the north, according to Preus, but personally drove a jeep bringing food, clothing and toys to people stranded in the area.
“Dani believes that to succeed in a community, you must be part of it,” Preus said, “and he is ready to risk his life for love of this country.”