The first Zionist bank, it
was founded at the Second Zionist
Congress and incorporated in London in 1899. The JCT was intended to be
the financial instrument of the Zionist Organization, and was to obtain
capital and credit to help attain a charter for Palestine.
It quickly became clear that the amount of capital raised
by the JCT was far from sufficient to attain this goal; the sum raised was
only £395,000 of the £8 million target.
The JCT's main activities in Palestine were carried out by
the Anglo-Palestine Bank, formed as a subsidiary in 1902. Its seed capital was
only £40,000. The bank opened its first branch in Jaffa in 1903 under the
management of Zalman David Levontin, and quickly made a name for itself as a
reliable and trustworthy institution, which did not consider business
transactions and profitability its only goals. In its early years, the bank
conducted transactions in support of the Zionist enterprise: land purchase,
imports, obtaining of concessions and so on. Branches were opened in Jerusalem,
Beirut (then the region's main commercial center), Hebron, Safed, Haifa,
Tiberias and Gaza.
The Anglo-Palestine Bank established a network of credit
unions in the moshavot and gave farmers long-term loans. It also helped with
the construction of the first 60 houses in Tel Aviv. During World War I, when
the Zionist enterprise faced severe difficulties, the bank managed to keep its
funds intact, transferring them to safe locations. The Turkish government,
considering the bank an enemy institution because it was registered in
Britain, ordered its branches shut and its cash confiscated. The liquidation
of the bank's branches proceeded very slowly and business continued
surreptitiously. After the war, the operations of the bank expanded, and other
banks were founded in Palestine. In 1932, the main office of the
Anglo-Palestine Bank was moved from Jaffa to Jerusalem.
In 1934, the JCT terminated its banking activity and became
a holding company for Anglo-Palestine Bank shares only.
During World War II, the Anglo-Palestine Bank was able to
use the large reserves it had built up to finance the developing industries
that supplied provisions to the British army. When the State of Israel was
established, the bank was given the concession to issue new banknotes and
became the government's banker and financial agent. In 1950, the bank's
registration was transferred from Britain to Israel, and it was renamed Bank
Leumi Le-Israel (National Bank of Israel). When the Bank of Israel was founded
as Israel's central bank (1954), Bank Leumi became a commercial bank.
In 1955, the Jewish Colonial Trust became an Israeli
company, and in the late 1980s it was sold to private investors.