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Panic Buying in Israel

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Panic buying was widespread today throughout Israel as the government announced that the price of basic foodstuffs was being increased by 50 percent as a consequence of the reduction of government subsidies.

Check-out clerks in supermarkets and owners and operators of smaller grocery stores complained they could not keep up with the pressure of twice or three times the number of customers bent on buying almost everything in sight in an effort to beat the new prices which come into effect at midnight or before the stocks ran out. Frequently customers at the check-out counters said they did not know why they had bought some of the items.

At gas stations, hundreds of cars lined up to fill up before the price of gasoline increased by 23 percent at midnight. But many car owners were caught in mid-fill as the government announced at noon that gasoline prices should be increased immediately. Noisy quarrels erupted as new prices were posted and unsuspecting customers were suddenly forced to pay higher prices than expected.

While the rush was on for foodstuffs, stores selling durable goods — clothing, furniture, electrical appliances — complained that business was at a complete standstill. “We are not even benefitting today from clients buying before the devaluation-engendered price rises come into effect,” one shopkeeper said. “People seem to be in a state of shock. Nobody knows the value of the money he has on him — and those who bought Dollars are not yet ready to dispose of them.”

A taxi driver who had been about to buy a new car said that he would now have to drive and earn his living in his older taxi. “I had budgeted for about 500,000 Shekels,” he said. “I certainly can’t afford to borrow another 100,000 or so — especially as I don’t know whether the bank will now take my bank shares as security for the loan.”

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