Sophia Tupolev-Luz
Founded The Reboot, welcoming displaced professionals to Israeli Tech

High Court Petition: Regulate Banking for Olim

Economic inclusion advocate Sophia Tupolev-Luz testifying at the Israeli Parliamentary Committee for Immigration regarding discrimination and lack of regulatory action in Israeli banks.
Economic inclusion advocate Sophia Tupolev-Luz testifying at the Israeli Parliamentary Committee for Immigration regarding discrimination and lack of regulatory action in Israeli banks.

Wars. Political persecution. Pogroms. Antisemitic attacks on the Diaspora. In 2024, immigration to Israel is at a 25-year high and the need for economic integration has never been greater. Now, our data-based High Court petition asks, why are local banks standing in the way, and why is the regulator standing idly by? If our initiative is successful, Israeli banks will be forced to work within clear and detailed banking management workflows, fulfilling their duty to provide banking services.

Imagine if the electric company refused to connect a home to the power grid because its residents were born abroad. Sounds preposterous, but this is daily life in Israeli banks for immigrants to Israel, (“Olim”) – who we’ve proven are systematically denied access to the banking system – in other words, the lifeline they need to survive and thrive in Israel.

This matters right now, at a time of rising global antisemitism. Today, Israel is under pressure to stand ready to integrate more new immigrants than ever. Yet, while the state encourages immigration, there is little policy to protect the rights of newcomers on Day 2. Our analysis of the data from immigrants in the banking system highlights this troubling phenomenon, pointing to the lack of clear workflows in the banking system as a major barrier to the State’s ability to retain immigrants.

Two years of data shows troubling barriers faced by immigrants in local banks:
From 2022-2024, our non-profit, the Economic Integration Org, and its partner organizations recorded over 1,000 survey responses detailing the barriers faced by new immigrants when they try to get basic services from Israeli banks. These two years of survey findings should be a wake-up call to the banking regulator and the banks. 

Why we petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice (“Bagatz”):
Our findings highlighted the pressing need to establish a substantial, uniform policy to guide banks, allowing immigrants to go through compliance in a standardized workflow, with dignity, and with clear expectations on both sides.

Chart: The survey shows an increase in reported cases of barriers in opening bank accounts, transferring funds, and receiving only verbal responses (without written confirmation)

Here’s what Olim reported experiencing in the local banking system between 2022-2024 based on our first-party, quantitative data:

  • 50% of immigrants reported being flat-out denied banking services in 2023-2024;
  • 55% reported waiting over 10 days to receive any response from the bank (a practice that violates current Bank of Israel regulations);
  • Between 2022-2024, 80% of respondents reported receiving only verbal responses to requests for services like opening accounts and transferring funds;
  • As of May 2024, 76% of banking issues were reported unresolved or only partially resolved.
  • The number of survey responses indicating barriers to receiving banking services increased in 2024 compared to 2023.

A staggering 50% of new immigrants reported facing obstacles in transferring their savings, salaries, and other documented funds to Israel from abroad.

There is an increasing trend in refusals from quarter
to quarter during the years 2022–2023. Answers to the question:
“Did you receive a written or verbal response after you requested banking services?”

All parties—customers, banks, the State of Israel, and the judicial system— will benefit from a transparent, organized policy on banking services, which this High Court petition is asking for:

  • Customers and Immigrants: Will gain certainty and protection from unfair or subjective treatment;
  • Banks: Will operate with more certainty under unified regulations that mitigate their risk;
  • State of Israel: Will benefit from inflows of more legal funds, supporting economic growth and immigrant integration;
  • Judicial System: Will save resources by reducing unnecessary legal proceedings, thanks to clear policies.

Without economic integration policies, Israel will continue to have an immigration retention problem, where people leave to contribute their talents, ideas, pioneering spirits, and taxes to other countries. Israelis abroad who lose faith in Israel weakens the unity of the Diaspora. The State of Israel simply cannot afford to lose these immigrants – not today, not ever. 

The time is now. The country cannot delay the resolution to this problem for one more day. Our shared economic future depends on every single immigrant to Israel receiving equal access to banking services, like the basic utilities that they are – just like water, and electricity.

On a personal note, I asked myself how appropriate it is to criticize Israel in wartime in this opinion piece. Then I realized that in any of the neighboring countries, I wouldn’t have had the courage to be an activist. Luckily, Israel’s democracy allows for justice to prevail – even if it takes time. Let’s stand together for justice, fairness, and democratic values.

The author is a citizen advocate for the economic integration of immigrants, the co-founder of the volunteer group The Reboot Startup Nation, and the founder of the Economic Integration Org, a registered non-profit dedicated to accelerating the economic impact of immigrants and displaced professionals. The Org focuses on publishing key, timely, first-party data from the field, and partnering with leaders across society for real-world solutions like policy change and private sector engagement. 

About the Author
Sophia Tupolev-Luz is the founder of The Reboot Startup Nation, a non-profit, grassroots initiative rallying Israel's tech sector to welcome displaced professionals affected by the war in Ukraine.
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