JERUSALEM (AP) — In the land of milk and honey, feelings run pretty strong when it comes to the price of cottage cheese.
Surrendering to a two-week online campaign, the Israeli dairy companies that control the cheese market announced they were cutting prices by 25 percent.
The victory was a rare instance of consumers banding together through social media to force powerful companies to reduce the price of a product.
Israel's relatively small size and its tech-savvy and media-aware population enabled the protest to spread quickly. More than 105,000 people joined the Facebook group vowing to boycott cottage cheese until prices dropped. The campaign touched a nerve among Israelis concerned about rising prices and eroding salaries.
Spooked by the outrage, the three main Israeli dairy companies that control the market agreed to lower the price of a half-pound (250 gram) container to 5.90 shekels ($1.75) after it had risen to close to 8 shekels ($2.30).
"Something happened here, and it changes the rules of the game in the market," Arik Shor, a top executive at the Tnuva dairy cooperative, told Israel Radio. "We are studying it and will draw conclusions — it is an event that goes far beyond cottage."
Tnuva was first to bow to the pressure. The two smaller dairies, Strauss and Tara, followed suit.
Cottage cheese was recently voted by Israelis to be their most "Israeli" food, surpassing even the region's own falafel. The dairy product can be found in nearly every refrigerator, and the sudden price increase became a symbol of the rising cost of living in Israel.
The protest has sparked hope it will spread to gasoline, which is now over $8 a gallon ($2 a liter), electricity and other food products that also have recently skyrocketed in price.
Protest organizers say they will be moving on to other overpriced products, and consumers have expressed hope the precedent will help them target Israel's pricey real estate and automobile markets.
It also has highlighted the power of social media, with some even comparing it to the revolutions elsewhere in the Middle East.
"True, this is not Tahrir Square yet, the cottage cheese rebellion did not require us to take any real action, just to press 'like' and skip the cottage cheese shelf in the supermarket," columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv daily, referring to the Egyptian uprising. "This was inaction, not action, and it demanded no real sacrifice."
Still, Israeli newspapers on Thursday lauded the success, carrying headlines that declared: "We Won," ''Cottage Cheese Victory" and "The Israel Consumer Has Had His Say."