Weeping Israeli business owner goes viral – even Netanyahu reacts

Video of weeping falafel stand owner on verge of corona-induced bankruptcy goes viral, prompting Netanyahu to reach out.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Facing a growing economic crisis and a stalemate in unity government negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out Monday to a distressed falafel stand owner whose tearful plea on the evening news for financial help had gone viral in Israel.

Through tears, Yuval Carmi described in the Channel 13 interview how the coronavirus lockdown had driven him to the edge and he didn’t have money to buy food for his children, let alone pay rent on his falafel stand located in a strip mall where police would not let customers to go in.

Carmi’s was not the only interview that touched a nerve. Demonstrations were held across the country Sunday by small business owners and the self-employed, who are among the hardest hit by the crisis.

Another interview on Channel 12 also went viral in which a livid event-hall owner slammed Netanyahu for failing in the coronavirus war.

Prompted by the outpouring of anger and frustration by small business owners, Netanyahu called Carmi and posted a video of the call on his Twitter account.

“I saw you yesterday and you really touched my heart,” Netanyahu told Carmi. “And I’ll help you. We’re going to help everyone.”

Netanyahu admitted that there were shortfalls in the government’s 23 billion dollar economic assistance package. “There are gaps and things that have not yet been done as they should be and we will take care to do them.”

On the call Carmi gave his thanks, but he told Netanyahu his staff were not doing their jobs.

“Apparently they are not telling you what is happening with the people,” Carmi said.

In the news story aired Sunday evening, Channel 13 consumer affairs reporter Noga Nir interviewed Carmi, who wept openly in front of his shop, roped off with tape to keep the public out due to emergency pandemic health guidelines.

Carmi explained that police would not allow customers in as rules only permitted takeout, something he was not set up to do.

“I’m embarrassed in front of my children, to tell them ‘I have nothing I can buy for you.’ I have nothing to give them to eat,” Carmi cried. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do,” he said, unable to stop his tears.

As the reporter moved inside to film Carmi preparing a falafel for her, Nir was unable to control her own emotions as the business owner apologized for being unable to stop crying. Overcome with her own tears, she turned away from the camera and left the shop to compose herself.

Carmi was inundated by support on social media, with comments noting that he wasn’t the only one in financial dire straights due to the coronavirus crisis.

“It is emotional and all that, but there are a lot more Yuval Carmis out there who don’t get a television interview and the public cannot save everyone, so the government must help the self-employed more,” an Israeli named Avi tweeted.

Opposition leader Benny Gantz weighed in, warning that voters were looking for solutions and were getting fed up with the politicians, who remain locked in stalemated negotiations to try and form a national unity government.

“Yuval Carmi’s heartbreaking words are a warning signal to us leaders – not to waste billions of shekels in a fourth election campaign,” Gantz tweeted. “Yes, for the establishment of a national emergency government to deal with the Corona virus, no less important, in the economic crisis that threatens millions of Israelis who will not forgive those who will be dragged into the elections during this period to crush some mandates.”

Following the inconclusive March 2 elections, Israel remains with a caretaker government while Netanyahu and Gantz continue to try and reach compromises for a national unity government. If none is formed, Israelis may be forced to vote in national elections in August.