Filling gas (illustrative)
Filling gas (illustrative) Photo by Nir Keidar
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The Israeli masses didn't take to the streets yesterday; instead, they took to the gas stations. All they wanted is to get one last refill before midnight, to save a shekel or three before gas prices leaped to an all time high at midnight.

In a country where civil protest and consumer boycotts are rare even on the sunniest days, many drivers were undeterred by the wind and the rain as they set out to refill their gas tanks for the old price, one last time, before a liter of 95-octane fuel costs 7.26 shekels.

The Ten fueling station in the Talpiot industrial area of Jerusalem had a line of about 15 to 20 cars spilling over into the street.

Some came to refill an entire tank while others showed up three-quarters full wanting to save a little money on the quarter that remained.

This particular fueling station was offering 95 fuel at 6.96 shekels per liter, the cheapest in Jerusalem. Avishai Levi got to the head of the queue, stepped out of his gray Mazda, and asked "to fill it up."

Attendant Lital, wrapped in a blue one-piece snowsuit, then became the audience for a soaring political speech prepared by yet another customer. "Bibi and Steinitz are robbers and rapers," Levi told a sympathetic Lital, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. "They're raping us."

"That's how it is every day," Lital said later. "People are frustrated, everyone wants to talk to me about government today. Truth is, I don't really know that much about it."

Ten, a small chain with 40 gas stations across the country, had to prepare itself for a day of massive demand. The chain's director, Danny Ben-Ner, said he had to "put out a few more tankers" in the evening. "Until now, we've insisted on keeping our prices under NIS 7 for 95," he said. "We won't be able to anymore."

He said that "throughout the world the public is becoming sensitive to prices and competitions between stations. We don't feel it here so much as elsewhere, but it's starting."

As the counter on Levi's pump kept rolling higher and higher, he cursed the finance minister again.

"This madness will only stop if we'll have protests here like in Tunisia and Egypt," Levi fumed. "Demonstrations like that could bring the price down to 3 shekels per liter, like it was just a few years ago."

Would he himself go out and protest? "If I felt like it, I would," he said.