It was a long tedious process, but we finally signed the new lease today and we'll be moving to a larger store front, with lower rent, in a better location!
Three months ago, while Jeff, Jeff and Chris (Jacob's Hope team members from the States) were all in Israel, we all went to visit our center in Ashdod. We were serving between 30 and 50 families a month from a small store front in a secluded location. We had thought that once word got out that we were giving clothing to needy people, the location wouldn't be an issue, especially since we were located in a poor area. However, I don't think word got out beyond the immediate surrounding area.
The congregation we are working with in Ashdod is also distributing food, in conjunction with the municipality, at another location. It came to our attention, during our visit, that a store front was available near their food distribution site. When we went to investigate, a neighbor of theirs showed us his store. He told us he was moving out and that his store, which was much larger than the other store we were looking at and would be available for a very reasonable price. We were immediately interested.
Everything seemed to be in place and I returned to Ashdod a month and a half later to sign the lease. I meet the landlord's lawyer, and that's when things started to go wrong. The lawyer did not like that her client was going to rent to a non-profit organization, because if something were to happen to the store, or we were to stop paying rent, there would be very little recourse for our landlord to take. She asked us to get a bank guarantee to assure her client would be paid. A very standard arrangement in Israel.
The next day I left for the States and we agreed to meet again when I got back two weeks later. When I got back, I asked our lawyer to contact their lawyer to work out the details of the bank guarantee and a few days later we were ready to schedule a meeting... then scheduling became an issue... getting a bank guarantee became an issue... my contact, from the congregation in Ashdod, went out of the country for a week... the landlord decided she didn't want to rent to us because I didn't live in Ashdod and it was to hard to schedule to see me... my contact returned... we were able to schedule an appointment for today, but I was still having trouble getting the bank to give me a guarantee.
This morning before our appointment, I was at the bank... our lawyer on the phone with me... I brought papers... the lawyer faxed more papers... the director who lives in the States needed to sign a paper?!? Maybe we could transfer the money to my personal account and I could personally guarantee the money... we made the transfer... they needed my wife to come in and sign... she was at home sick in bed with the flu... we transferred the money back... the lawyer faxed more paper... three hours later, with the bank guarantee in hand, I headed off to Ashdod to sign the agreement! An hour and a half later, and two and a half hours after our originally scheduled meeting, I was in Ashdod signing the papers.
The Ashdod center is moving, finally.