Like most Israeli men, Rami Levy wears T-shirts and blends in with the other majority of his casually-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 Levy has done is ordinary.
Born to a Turkish family of Jewish immigrants, he 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 grandfather’s goods warehouse in the Machane Yehuda market. While working there, he 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 Levy 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, Levy 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 market, he left his opponents speechless, opened up supermarkets all over Israel, and conquered an astonishing 20% of the market.
But Levy also made enemies of the big boys, such as the Israel Coca-Cola franchise who boycotted him, which had to concede when the Israel Competition Authority intervened in Levi’s favor.
Rami Levy, known for the equal opportunities he has created in the marketplace, also employs Arabs from Judea and Samaria. He pays all his workers a fair and equal wage. In 2016, there was a terror attack in one of his shops. An off-duty Israel soldier 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. Levy was adamant that the jobs of his Arab workers were not at stake. They had done nothing wrong. Anyway, he stated, there were plenty of Arabs who serve in the police too.
In 2020 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 tefillin in the belief it would revive a love of Judaism in the community and help them avoid assimilation.
After the rabbi died of Coronavirus, Levy donated a million shekels worth of tefillin for the poorest of the Jews of Europe. Any Jewish man who did not have them could apply through the rabbi of his community to receive them as a gift. In order to make sure they were evenly distributed, the donation was limited to two sets per community. Levy has a long-standing relationship with the European Rabbinical Center. At their request, he has also funded many Bar Mitzvah trips to Israel. Although nothing externally stands out about him, many things he has done are simply outstanding.
First published here