Last year a spike in cottage cheese prices helped spark the tent protests in Tel Aviv and inspired the worldwide Occupy movement. Cottage is a staple of the Israeli diet, so much so that it became a national symbol utilized in discourse about inequality and corporate exploitation. There is probably only one other food item that unites Israelis so vigorously: Tomatoes.
Almost one year after the protests in Tel Aviv, Israeli farmers are reporting a poor crop will raise tomatoes prices across the nation. Market prices doubled during the last weeks of April – up to NIS 18 a kg (about $4). Some industry professionals speculate that the price of tomatoes is likely to increase 400 percent in the coming months.
The Israeli government is already taking drastic action to curtail that impact. The Ministry of Agriculture is arranging to import tomatoes from nearby Jordan, according to Haaretz.
The Vegetable Growers’ Association in Israel might begin buying tomatoes from Gaza, even though the growing process is not monitored. While such a move would be unusual, it is not unprecedented. In October 2011 Israel imported palm fronds from Gaza. And in February Israel permitted Gaza to export tomatoes to Jordan for the first time since 2007.
It would be overly optimistic to suggest that Israelis’ insatiable appetite for tomatoes would inspire Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to engage in more open dialogue and trade agreements with its Arab neighbors.
But then again, two years ago it would have been impossible to imagine the streets of Tel Aviv clogged with over 250000 protestors chanting: “The people demand social justice!”
The Israeli government will have to act fast if it hopes to retain popular support. We’ve already seen that hungry Israelis will take to the streets.
Of course, there are other options for Israelis to maintain a steady supply: creating patio gardens in Israeli cities where the weather is perfect for home-grown tomatoes.
Image of Israeli woman eating breakfast from Shutterstock