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01.

From Making $200K a Year, to Fighting for Minimum Wage

“I knew how to use money to make money, until I realized the damages caused by capital market.”

From being a successful finance professional, thirty year old Ithamar Farhi became an activist fighting for employee rights.

The tent city, the demonstrations, the media coverage of the social revolt and the thoughts that followed, made him realize how disconnected he was from things.

“I realized the damages caused by capital market. People lost most of their money, their houses, became unemployed, children watched their parents collapsing, all because of speculators who deceived them and played with their money.”

“I realized the damages caused by capital market. People lost most of their money, their houses, became unemployed, children watched their parents collapsing, all because of speculators who deceived them and played with their money,” he comments harshly, but still keeps his monotone voice, matching his indifferent, hipster look.

ITAMAR PIRCHI

Itamar Farhi. “I went to one or two demonstrations, I wasn’t really involved.”

“I wanted to succeed in life, and to me, success meant making lots of money, and the place to do that was Wall Street”. He managed to make his way into a financial derivatives company, as an intern, and felt lucky about the opportunity he was given, without having an Ivy League degree. But reality turned out to be far from what he’d dreamed of.

“Everything was being run so horribly, I was truly amazed. I came from Israel thinking Wall Street people were all brilliant and smart, that you had to come from Harvard or something like that, but when I was there, I realized that everything was on a very unstable ground: one of the people I was working with was an alcoholic, shaking hands and all, I’d never seen anything like it, the other one was a junky, and those are the people running the world”.

He went on to open up his own trading company, “and in 2006, it was already clear – to me and everyone working around me – that it was all about to collapse. If it would have blown up then, it would have been less of a catastrophe, but when it happened, in 2008-2009, everything collapsed. People went out to the hallways carrying cardboard boxes. That’s when I knew I wanted to go back to Israel”.

He came back to Israel in 2010, and started an algorithmic trading company with two other co-founders. They found an investor, work was moving forward, but with time, the partners’ relationship was experiencing some difficulties, and meanwhile, tents were set up along Rothschild Boulevard.

It took a couple of years, until he found in 2013 the social path that was right for him. All that time, he was living off his savings from his former work at the stock exchange.

“I understood that everything I’d been trying to do in the two previous years, in all those different projects, I could do much more effectively working for Power to the Employees.”

He joined “Koach La’ovdim” [Hebrew: Power to the Employees], where he’s supporting workers’ organizations across the country in various fields. “I understood that everything I’d been trying to do in the two previous years, in all those different projects, I could do much more effectively working for Power to the Employees. People are willing to join one or two demonstrations, but they find it hard to connect to it on a day to day level. With employees who are working for their own good, there’s a daily, real, very strong connection made, because those are their lives. You’re much more likely to change things in this context. I’ll give you an example: when I got to Power to the Employees, Obama went public with a campaign to raise minimum wage. I said: if Obama is doing it, it’s time we do it here too. We started this process, and within a year, minimum wage was also raised here.”

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