Rami and Goliath

Like most Israeli men, Rami Levi wears T-shirts and blends in with the other majority of his causally dressed countrymen. An ordinary guy, he could be mistaken for a cab driver, a gardener, a felafel seller, or anyone’s neighbor. 

But nothing about what Rami Levi has done is “ordinary.” 

Born to a Turkish family of Jewish immigrants, Rami grew up in Jerusalem. One of six children, he struggled at school because he had dyslexia. Frustrated with his lack of ability to really engage in his studies, he left school at the tender age of 14 to take over his grandfathers goods’ warehouse in the famous Machane Yehuda market (that bustling shuk frequented by Israelis shopping for Shabbat, and a “must” on every tourist itinerary). While working there, Rami began to notice that many people who had small businesses were looking to buy food at wholesale prices. The Israel of the 1970’s was not the commercial state that we have today. Unlike 2020, the then, “Little Israel” did not cater for the market en-masse. 

In deciding to sell much for little profit, Rami Levi changed things. For Israelis, who absurdly pay more for a chocolate yogurt made in Israel than they do for that same Israeli product sold in Berlin, Rami was a financial savior. His strategy was such a raging success that within just a few years he not only doubled his space at the Machane Yehuda market, he left his opponents speechless, opened up supermarkets all over Israel, and conquered an astonishing 20% of the market! 

But Rami also made enemies of the big boys, such as the Israel Coca-cola franchise who boycotted him, but had to concede when the Israel Competition Authority intervened in his favor. 

Rami Levi, known for the equal opportunities he has created in the market place, also employs Palestinians. He pays all his workers a fair and equal wage. In February 2016, tragically there was a terror attack in one of his shops. An off-duty Israel solider was stabbed to death by two Palestinian terrorists who were trying to get into the store. 

In the fallout of any terror attack, tensions run understandably high. Levi was adamant that the jobs of his Palestinian workers were not at stake. They had done nothing wrong. Anyway, he stated, there were plenty of Arabs who serve in the police too. 

Levi never stops surprising people. 

A few years ago, he was approached by Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, the Director General of the European Rabbinical Center who was concerned for the spiritual state of the Jews in Hannover, Germany. The rabbi wanted to provide phylacteries for Jewish men. The rabbi believed these sets of small black leather cases which Jewish men don to pray in, would revive the community spiritually, help them avoid assimilation and give them a new love for Judaism. 

Sadly, the rabbi died of Coronavirus. Levi, bent on fulfilling the rabbi’s dying wish, stepped up and donated a million shekels worth of phylacteries for the poorest of the Jews of Europe. Any Jewish man who does not have phylacteries can now apply through the rabbi of his community to receive them as a gift. In order not to create a mass onslaught and to pass them on to those who really need them, the donation is currently limited to only two couples per community. 

Rami Levi has a long-standing relationship with the European Rabbinical Center. At their request, he has also funded many Bar Mitzvah trips to Israel for Jewish boys from abroad.

Like most of us, nothing externally stands out about Rami Levi. And unlike most of us, many things he has done, are simply outstanding.