Israelis can now purchase bitcoins at their local exchange bureau thanks to a new collaboration between bitcoin exchange Bits of Gold and Global Money Transfer (GMT).
The partnership with GMT means Bits of Gold can ensure it complies with current and future anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer regulations in Israel. At the moment, the maximum amount of cash people can change into bitcoins via Bits of Gold is 10,000 Israeli new shekel (around $2,800).
Jonathan Rouach, CEO of Bits of Gold, said he has been passionate about bitcoin ever since he heard about it back in 2010.
"I couldn't sleep for three weeks, I was reading everything I could and basically re-learning the meaning of money. But it takes some time for people to really trust the idea of a math-based currency. To me, it took about 1.5 years," he explained.
Rouach said he got to the stage where he supported the bitcoin idea enough to "get bold, quit my nice job, seize the opportunity and open a company".
He told CoinDesk he believes bitcoin's main strength is its "cross-border nature" – the fact it can be transferred from one user to another on the other side of the world with ease.
"As larger online service markets begin to accept bitcoin, Israelis who wish to participate in that economy will jump in. We are also in talks with large local retailers to have Israeli products sold in bitcoin, but that will take some time," he explained.
Rouach said there is currently no regulation in Israel that specifically refers to bitcoin or digital currencies in general. "The Israeli government is essentially waiting for the US to take a clear stand. Both the Israeli equivalent of FinCEN and the Central Bank do not want to get involved in this new technology until they really have to."
The government is already studying the subject and has started engaging with the Israeli bitcoin community, said Rouach, who is involved in setting up an Israeli branch of the Bitcoin Foundation.
As for what's next for Bits of Gold, Rouach said the company is looking to expand in South America and the Middle East, with the expansion in South America set to go ahead in the first quarter of 2014.
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