Thousands of Israelis are lining up for gas masks or ordering them by phone, spurred on by fears that any Western military response to last week's alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria could ensnare their own country in warReuters news agency reported.
Western powers are considering military action to punish the Syrian government for the alleged attack that killed hundreds near Damascus last week.
With speculation mounting that NATO powers might fire cruise missiles into Syria, many in Israel worry that President Bashar al-Assad, embroiled in a 2-1/2 year uprising against his rule, could strike out at the Jewish state in retaliation.
Israeli media reports of Syrian officials threatening retaliation against Israel for any Western strike have only served to heighten the anxiety.
"We live in a crazy region. All it takes is for one crazy person to push a button and you never know, everything can go up in flames," said Victor Bracha, 72, one of those queuing for protective gear at a makeshift distribution center in a shopping mall in Jerusalem.
Maya Avishai, spokeswoman for the Israeli Postal Service which oversees the distribution of gas masks on behalf of the military's homefront command, said four times as many people as usual had phoned in orders in the past two days.
"Twice as many as usual are showing up at public centers to pick them up. The pressure has been great," Avishai said. There was also talk of expanding the number of centers handing out gas masks to meet demand, she added.
Shlomi Goldstein, 32, another shopper at the mall in Jerusalem, said he had no plans to join those queuing for masks, confident that Israel could deter any attack.
"I think Assad wouldn't dare to attack us, he knows that if he did it could be the last thing he ever does," he said.