Pesach gave me a chance to reflect on my life and how far I’ve come professionally and personally over the last 18 years since I made Aliya. Times of Israel and the English newspapers here are always full of Aliya stories so I thought I’d share mine, after all what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t write about yourself on it?!
Well, it’s been a long and wonderful journey and like all journeys there have been some bumps along the way. When I arrived in Israel I was already a trained and practicing retail pharmacist. Many people who make Aliya have to give up their existing careers and start again. Either you can’t find work in your field or Israel doesn’t recognize the qualifications and you cannot practice your skill without converting your degree or even starting again. I was fortunate enough not to have to go through this. All I had to do was brush up on my level of Hebrew, take a small course and sit an exam to get an Israeli license. With just a little effort I was able to continue on with my career.
When I made Aliya I decided that I would invest in setting up my own community pharmacy. I opened my first community pharmacy 18 years ago in Center 1 Jerusalem. Like most start-ups it was not an easy ride. I worked from 9am every morning until midnight every night. I dispensed prescriptions for all the major Kupot Cholim and serviced most of the patients that came out of the Terem emergency center in Romema. Life was busy but also rewarding.
Many of my customers were tourists and visitors to Israel – that’s what happens when you open a business in the middle of Jerusalem! One of the things that kept happening was their amazement at the low cost of prescription medication in Israel, compared to what they normally paid in the US. Israel has a National Health system that caps the price a drug company can charge for prescriptions. This allowed visitors access to medications that would have been as much as 70% more expensive in the US. I always knew the National Health System here was fantastic with regards to medication subsides but I didn’t realize how little other countries did for their sick constituents.
People who came in feeling stressed about having to buy prescription medication here feared the worst about the cost. They just presumed that because they were abroad they would have to pay even more money than normal. I got asked so many times to repeat myself when I told them the price! Americans especially could not believe how much they were paying. I know it’s hard to realize this as things cost so much money here in relation to salaries but when it comes to medication needs we are very well taken care of by the government.
At the same time I was making this discovery – so were all the big Canadian online pharmacies. I was approached by a large Canadian online pharmacy to start dispensing medication for their patients and shipping to the USA. I met with the District Pharmacist at the Ministry of Health and together we investigated the legality and came up with the standard protocol for dispensing prescription medications that we still use today. And so, in 2005, my second business venture Israelpharm.com was born.
I started simply by asking every tourist who walked in the pharmacy if they knew that prices were significantly cheaper in Israel for medications than in the US. I then printed fliers and asked my patients who spoke English if they had relatives in the US that would benefit from cheaper meds and gave them a flier. Slowly, slowly I got my first online customer, then my tenth and now I service over 6000 active patients who enjoy Israel’s great prescription drug prices and my unequaled customer service. I am proud to say that after that after 14 years of hard work Israelpharm is now the leading online pharmacy in Israel and I often get asked to mentor other business’ who wish to make the move from retail to online entrepreneurship.
Today with the dismal state of healthcare in the US and Obamacare kicking at the door I feel that it is my mission is to supply prescription meds to every Jew loving, Israeli flag waving, prescription drug taking person out there. Tell all your friends and family – no US citizen should have to buy their monthly medications in America anymore. You don’t need to worry about soaring costs and what Obama will do to your prescription meds – if you buy Blue and white you can save money and support Israeli industries at the same time.
———————————————————————————————- Saul is an Australian trained and Israeli licensed pharmacist living in Mazkeret Batya. If you have any pharmacy related questions, retail or online ecommerce queries feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org