Vegan-friendly tourism in Israel

Veganism is the most strict form of vegetarianism, which excludes almost all (and often, all) consumption of products obtained through exploitation and killing of animals. Vegans strictly oppose animal exploitation and exclude from their diet all «animal» products, as they are called — these include meat, fish, eggs, animal milk and dairy products from raw materials of animal origins, and honey. The term «veganism» originally developed as a branch of vegetarianism and was first introduced in 1944 by Donald Watson. It was formed by «morphing» the first three and the last two letters of the word «vegetarian».

Today, more than 300 000 Israelis consider themselves vegan, free of consuming animal products in their diet. This is the largest number of vegans per capita in the world. No wonder that a great number of Israeli cafes and restaurants switched to vegan-friendly menus, and Tel-Aviv has become the true world capital for vegan cuisine.

So where exactly could you find quality vegan and vegetarian food in Israel? Let’s give the stage over to Emily von Euw, a famous vegan blogger and a traveler, and see what she has to say:

«Probably what you want to hear the most about, the food was — of course — amazing. Infinite bowls of tahini. A very exciting aspect for me personally on this trip was learning that Israel is in the midst of a vegan revolution. I was told that around 12% of Tel Aviv residents are plant-based eaters (compare to the Canadian 2%)! When we weren’t eating at a vegan or vegetarian restaurant (I was the only vegan on the trip), the menus still had several vegan options clearly and proudly labeled. This is largely thanks to Omri Paz of Vegan-Friendly, a Tel Aviv-based non-profit vegan organization that has exploded the vegan scene during the past few years in the city by encouraging restaurants to add vegan menu items. You can easily find vegan ice cream cafes, vegan pizza eateries, and traditional Middle Eastern cuisine with a vegan flare. We dined at only the finest restaurants that focused on sourcing local, organic, wholesome ingredients and transforming them into magnificent, mouth-watering morsels on your plate.

We had the honor of meeting all the chefs who delighted in telling us about their passion for organic, healthy, compassionate living. It was moving. Besides the vegan spots, it is simply part of the Israeli culture to eat mostly plants. Sabich, a famous street food (eggplant with hummus and pita) is easily found and very popular. There are juiceries EVERYWHERE. It was not hard at all to find fresh juice on any street. There were also massive, gooey dates and other dried fruit everywhere. We went to the market one day and I saw the biggest mangoes. Ever. And it goes without saying that hummus is the lifeblood of the nation. People eat it all day, every day. My mouth is watering just thinking of all the fragrant, sweet, savory, creamy and crunchy treasures we had the privilege of devouring.

Israel is a vegan mecca and stunning little section of the globe. If you want to travel to the Middle East, I’d recommend stopping by and stuffing your face with healthy, plant-based goodness. It’s almost hard NOT to eat veggie here».

Vegetarianism in Israel is so prevalent, than even in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, the soldiers are able to follow their vegan diet very strictly. When the IDF have included vegan dishes on the menu in their army bases it became crystal clear: the anti-meat revolution in Israel has reached a new, serious level. If in the past this lifestyle was associated mainly with the hippies or the adepts of healthy lifestyle, today its horizons has expanded immeasurably — the number of followers of vegetarianism and veganism is growing by the day. New vegan dishes are appearing, and new vegan-dedicated restaurants are opening in Israel for those who wish to completely exclude animal products from their table, and from their lives.

Truly, changes are happening here at the speed of light: animal rights are being mentioned by the politicians of the top tier, vegan festivals are organized throughout the year. At these festivals and fairs you can easily buy a peas hot-dog, a tofu shawarma or a traditional goulash stew, made from wheat gluten. Such a fair in Tel Aviv, for example, has being visited by at least 15 thousand people daily.