By Marian Lebor
June 17, 2011
For those of you who have been waiting for Israelis to emulate their Arab neighbours and get out there on Facebook, Twitter and the streets to demonstrate and demand change, that day has finally come. And what is the major issue that is making Israelis’ blood curdle? Cottage cheese.
No whey, you may say. Cottage cheese? That’s all we’ve got to worry about? Actually, it is more serious than it seems. Israelis have suddenly woken up to the fact that cottage cheese – that staple of the famous Israeli breakfast – costs twice as much in Israel as it does in Europe.
Well, boker tov Israel.
For those of us weaned on the John Lewis dictum of “never knowingly undersold” and the notion of price wars between supermarket chains that benefit the consumer – and, of course, the supermarket chain - the recent hike in the cost of cottage was just another example of how we are ripped off daily in this country. And the problem is, we literally buy it. The worst thing you can be in Israel is a “freier”, a sucker. Yet every time we walk into a supermarket and pay at the checkout we are the biggest freierim of all.
One supermarket chain daringly lowered the price of cottage cheese this week and – what do you know? - discovered that its sales went up. Until now, price wars in Israeli supermarkets were about who could charge us the most and get away with it.
Food companies and supermarkets add huge price hikes to just about everything from one week to the next. Monopolies control most areas of our lives so we don’t have a choice.
But now a Facebook campaign that is gathering momentum as I write is urging a boycott of cottage cheese. The Israeli consumer is finally putting its money where its mouth is and demanding change. Will cottage cheese be the start of the public making its feelings known to the powers that be on a whole host of important issues?