Police were called Sunday to control a large crowd at a pair of food stores in Rishon Lezion after there were rumors of a shipment of the most precious commodity of this holiday and pandemic season — eggs.
Police and municipal inspectors arrived at the scene, the Ynet news site reported, and attempted to make customers adhere to social distancing rules as they waited at the two shops, located side-by-side.
According to the report, one of the shop owners was told he would have to close if customers continued to ignore regulations aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the situation was contained and the stores remained open — until they ran out of eggs.
For the past two weeks, Israelis have reported widespread egg shortages throughout the country with many supermarkets out of them entirely while others have only been allowing shoppers to purchase one or two dozen at a time or conditioning the sale on purchasing over NIS 150 (approximately $41) in groceries.
A thriving black market in eggs has developed, potentially generating health hazards.
A cargo ship carrying a bulk consignment of eggs from Spain arrived in the Ashdod port on Sunday morning with another expected to arrive on Tuesday, helping to alleviate the nationwide shortage.
The government sent a fleet of trucks to help unload the eggs and is coordinating the effort to restock Israel ahead of the Passover festival, which starts on Wednesday evening, from a special logistics center, Channel 12 reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced in a statement on Friday that Israel will subsidize an emergency airlift of millions of eggs.
The statement blamed the shortage on recent difficulties in importing eggs from Italy and Spain, two of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus. Israel is usually self-sufficient in eggs, but the most recent shortages have been blamed on panic buying and hoarding.
Channel 12 reported that 10 cargo planes will also be used to bring in the eggs ahead of Passover, noting that there is an estimated shortage of some 30 million eggs.
Last Friday, Agriculture Minster Tzachi Hanegbi ordered an increase in imports from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ukraine to restock the supply in Israel, which typically is able to suffice through local coops.
Officials then said the shortage was not caused by supply problems, but by panic buying.
The Marker reported that Israelis typically purchase 6 million eggs a day but that this had recently increased to 10 million and that egg consumption usually increases by around 20 percent ahead of Passover.
The demand for eggs is also particularly high during the holiday, where many make considerable use of eggs, particularly at the festive Seder meal.
Many serve hard-boiled eggs in salt water at the meal and for others it is a key ingredient of matzah ball soup and matzah brei, holiday favorites.