In this Issue:
The Latest from the IsraTransfer Trading Desk
Featured Start-Ups Taking on Coronavirus
Israeli's Skies: When Will they Open?
The Aliyah Boom
Shekel Exchange Rates: June 2020
The US dollar against the shekel hit a low of 3.425 this week, following a downward trend in the currency. The main reason behind the low rate is the strong shekel. The markets believe that because Israel is coming out of lock-down and reopening quicker than most western countries, its economy is strong.
The rates could turn around quickly if Israel is to re-enter full lock-down. While this is unlikely, if the recent increase in coronavirus cases continues at the current frequency, there may be no choice.
We haven't seen the USD/ILS rate of 3.4000 since early 2018, and we think it is unlikely to drop below that.
It is interesting to note the recent rise in the price of gold. Generally, in times of turmoil, people try and have their assets in US dollars, and we see the currency strengthen. With the pandemic in the US nowhere near under control, it seems the 'safe haven' for assets is now gold, with the price reaching near 8-year highs.
The shekel is strong across the board, with sterling hitting a low of 4.265 and the euro at 3.86.
Creative Minds Take On Crazy Times
The longer the pandemic continues, the more it drives Israel's passion for innovation. Start-ups continue to tackle the different aspects of the changing times: increasing health concerns, social distancing, and greater reliance on virtual communication technology.
These rapid societal changes and the tech-worlds response were the subjects of OurCrowd's recent digital Pandemic Innovation Conference. The event was attended virtually by top investors, venture capitalists, government officials, and more from 90 countries worldwide. OurCrowd hopes to raise $100 million for its Pandemic Innovation Fund, which will invest in technological solutions to deal with the coronavirus and its social implications.
Israeli Start-Ups Fighting Corona
The event highlighted multiple start-ups, tackling the pandemic's deadly health conditions and companies dealing with the "new normal." SaNOitize, which created therapy preventing COVID-10 from harming the upper respiratory system. MigVax presented their vaccine, which was successful against a coronavirus affecting poultry. The vaccine is scheduled for testing against the coronavirus in humans. The meal service Tovala puts a new spin on home cooking by using a smart oven to make gourmet, home-cooked meals.
Though not featured at the conference, other Israeli start-ups tackling the pandemic have a moment in the spotlight this month. Sonovia created an anti-viral mask that proved to stop "more than 90% of the coronavirus to which it was exposed" in a recent study in Shanghai. Clew, a company that created an AI-powered device for early detection of respiratory failure, received FDA approval in June, allowing them to move to the commercial stage. JoyTunes also experienced unprecedented success, allowing the homebound quarantined around the world to experience the gift of music. The app, which teaches people how to play piano or guitar through a gamified experience, brought "joy" to over 10 million users worldwide!
Open Skies on the Horizon
The current pandemic brought about an unprecedented closing of the skies. Though necessary, this act caused a blow to the Israeli economy and frustration for many natives and want-to-be tourists. Many non-citizens are not allowed in the country, and anyone coming from overseas must engage in a 2-week isolation period.
Who gets to come in? Citizens and immigrants are always permitted entry, but it is more complicated concerning visitors. According to a recent article in the Jerusalem Post, non-citizens can enter Israel for weddings and funerals of relatives (first-tier or grandparents) or visit a citizen-spouse in the country. International students wishing to resume their studies can return under certain conditions. A quota of "experts" entering on foreign-worker permits will also get permission.
When will Israel's Airlines resume full operation?
Limited access to the country and the mandatory quarantine means not many people are flying to Israel! Airlines, therefore, drastically limited their number of daily flights. El-Al extended its flight suspension until July 31st. It currently uses its planes for cargo and "occasional passenger flights".
But the situation looks hopeful. June saw an increase in air traffic with Cyprus and Turkey. Israel's relatively mild COVID-10 outbreak gained it a spot Cyprus' list of approved countries. Visitors from Israel will not need to quarantine or have their temperatures checked when arriving on the Island.
Turkish Airlines just announced that its flights to and from Israel would go up to 17 per week. While this is well below the pre-corona number, it's still high considering the quarantine upon return to Israel and other factors. High-fevered passengers will not be allowed on flights, and tourists who fall ill with coronavirus can be treated at a Turkish hospital at the government's expense.
Wizz Air, Delta, Aegean, Air Europe, Aeroflot, and Air Canada have also restarted regular flights to Ben Gurion airport.
The Aliyah Boom
Since the pandemic broke out, requests for Aliyah from France tripled, and applications from North America and the United Kingdom quadrupled. According to recent reports, Israel can expect 90,000 new immigrants in the near future. Travel restrictions, pandemic- related instability, and Israel's relative control over the COVID-19 spread seem to have influenced the uptick in aliyah interest.
A group of 37 Jews from Peru made aliyah in June. The Latin American country experienced the second-largest coronavirus outbreak in the continent, after Brazil. Lima, the city where most of Peru's Jews reside, was especially hard hit. A strict lockdown was instituted, and riots broke out in protest. The country was not in a solid economic position before the pandemic, and the current situation made things worse.
Another group of immigrants is trying to make its way to Israel. Nearly 8,000 Falash Mura are still waiting for the chance to immigrate. Pnina Tamano-Shata, Minister of Aliyah and Integration, has been vocal this month about bringing them to Israel as soon as possible.