How campaigners milk the food price debate


A Facebook post on food prices in Israel has kicked off another public debate over the financial burden on the middle classes.

Bizarrely, however, the row has not focused on a staple, but on the popular Milky dairy pudding, composed of whipped cream and chocolate milk.

The controversy began last week when an Israeli who had moved to Berlin with his family posted the receipt for his weekly shop at Aldi, highlighting the fact that the German equivalent of the Milky cost him 60 per cent less than in Israel.

The complaints over food prices in Israel, often 30 per cent higher than in Western European supermarkets, come as fears grow over an exodus of educated young Israelis.

The post appeared on a Facebook page called Olim le'Berlin (making aliyah to Berlin), run by members of the Israeli expat community in the German capital, who now number more than 10,000.

"What broke me in Israel wasn't military reserve service, a rocket attack or a threatening bank letter," wrote the anonymous father in Hebrew. "But a seemingly simple moment, when I realised that I was hesitating to buy a four-pack of Milky for my children and thinking, maybe I wouldn't. Here in Berlin, I never hesitate about buying food in the supermarket."

The post attracted a great deal of attention online and in the Israeli media, reawakening some of the passions that brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis on to the streets in the social protests three years ago. While the demonstrations petered out after a couple of months, a number of the movement's leaders have since gone into politics, and the underlying frustration was seen as one of the factors behind the success of the new middle-class party, Yesh Atid, and its leader, Yair Lapid.

The latest wave of online protests have refocused attention on Finance Minister Lapid's election promises to alleviate the middle class burden and the fact that after a year and a half in office, the cost of living has not gone down.

Mr Lapid in the past responded dismissively to the complaints of young Israelis who left the country. This time, he has tried to be more understanding, promising to expand price controls to additional food products.

But Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, a former senior government adviser who was appointed three years ago to head a commission to address the social protest demands, said last week that there was an "inconceivable difference between the prices in Israel and abroad. This is the most significant failing".

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