When 99 Tons of Passover Chocolate Go Missing

This year, there may be a shortage of the legendary chocolate spread on the Passover table.

The scent of chocolate fills Hashahar Haoleh factory in the Haifa Bay. Four production line workers oversee the process of filling round containers with chocolate spread and packing them into cartons. On one wall of the factory hangs an old drawing of a mother and her son next to a piece of matza smeared with the brown spread. The chocolate factory, which has been around for 60 years, became a household name long ago. But this year, there may be a shortage of the legendary chocolate spread on the Passover table.

Around six weeks ago, the factory workers were laboring energetically to produce the chocolate spread and get it ready for distribution ahead of Passover. But then a gang of thieves broke into the factory's warehouses and stole around 100 tons of packages ready for distribution. The police suspect the thieves neutralized the alarms and loaded the pallets onto six trucks. Before fleeing, the thieves removed the tape from the security camera and then turned the alarms back on.

Yesterday, after ongoing searches, one of the 30 private investigators hired by the factory to find one of the 100 stolen tons managed to find one ton in a neighborhood grocery store in the village of Kabul in the North. The store owner was taken in for questioning by the Zevulun District police and claimed he bought the goods from a marketer. During his questioning it came to light that the marketer sold him the goods using an invoice from a business that stopped operating four years ago. At the end of his questioning, he was released and the goods were returned to the factory.

Executives at the factory and the police hope the neighborhood grocer will lead them to the marketer who could point to those responsible for the theft. "The goods changed hands a few times," says the commander of the Zevulun District police, Jamal Hakhrush. "There is a chain of people involved and I hope that through the suspect, we will be able to reach them as well."

Apart from the monetary loss of NIS 100 million incurred by the factory, there was also concern that they would not be able to meet demand for the chocolate spread, especially ahead of the Passover holiday.

"The theft occurred at the most critical time. At this time, consumption increases by hundreds of percent," said the factory's marketing manager, Akiva Weitz. "During the Passover period, we produce around 1,000 tons a month. This is a matter of three months."

In the meantime, the Hashahar Haoleh factory has doubled the number of shifts it is operating. "We aren't managing, at the moment, to produce what the market is demanding. But we're trying and doing everything we can. The boxes that were located help. I very much hope that we'll manage to find the rest. If they find 60-70 percent, we'll be pleased," said Weitz.