Would hosting the world’s largest vegan festival indicate that Israel is “going vegan?” Absolutely! And there are many more exciting vegan happenings that certainly point in that direction!
Last week, about 15,000 ticket holders attended the second annual Veg-Fest in Park Leumi in Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv. The all-day and into-the-night festival featured all-vegan food, music, entertainers, celebrities and lecturers and drew Israelis from all walks of life, observed Omri Paz, organizer of the event and founder of Vegan Friendly.
Surveys found that veganism is indeed a growing trend in Israel, with 8 percent of the population as vegetarian and 5 percent as vegan. Only four years ago, vegetarians and vegans represented only a 2.6% demographic.
According to Haaretz.com, the Israeli newspaper, many signs are indicating that Israel is strongly heading for mainstream veganism:
- approximately 7,000 Israelis have accepted the “Challenge 22” to go vegan for 22 days. The campaign was started by Anonymous, an animal rights group, in May
- about 250 Israeli restaurants are certified “vegan friendly” which means that at least 25% of their menus are vegan
- Domino’s Pizza is now offering vegan pizza in Israel, the first country in the world by Dominos. About 300,000 vegan pizzas have been sold since the launch.
- a YouTube video, with Hebrew subtitles, showing a lecture on veganism has attracted nearly 1 million views in a country of 8 million people.
- 20% of the Israeli population watched one of Israel’s most prominent animal activists, Tal Gilboa, win the most recent Israel’s “Big Brother” reality TV show, which caused a “revolution among the Israeli fan base.” Her win influenced 60% of the viewers to change to a plant-based diet, according to polls. The runner-up was vegan too!
- a popular investigative news program devoted 6 segments to exposing the mistreatment of animals in Israel’s meat and dairy industries
- veganism gaining traction within both the religious and secular population
- Israeli model, Rotem Sela, made a video which went viral for Vegan Friendly about the cruelty of the dairy industry
Last year, I had the privilege of asking Omri Paz some questions about his vegan mission and it’s so wonderful to see that in only 1 year, he has made such a difference! Here is an excerpt of that post:
A friend of mine, knowing I would be interested in Omri Paz and Vegan Future, sent me a link to a story about him covered by Paul Goldman of WorldNews.NBCNews.com. Knowing him personally as a close family friend, she suggested that I reach out to him, using her as a connection, to learn more about his thoughts about being vegan in Israel. After getting in touch with him and seeing his eagerness to share the story, I posed some questions to him…
Omri Paz: Israel is definitely a meat eating country. We look for every occasion to celebrate by eating huge amounts of meat. A great example is Israel’s Independence day which became the national BBQ day. On that day, literally everyone goes out to the Israeli parks and eats meat. Chicken breast is extremely common (probably cause it’s the cheapest). About 60-75 percent of all the meat that’s consumed comes from chicken. Until the 1990′s, it was rare to find pork meat (not kosher) but now after the Russian immigration even that became extremely popular with about 150 k pigs being slaughtered every year.
EF: How did you start your organization, A Vegan Future?
OP: Well I became vegan a year ago after watching the lecture of Garry Youropsky. The lecture opened my eyes. I was overwhelmed by the things I saw and heard. So after watching the lecture, I decided to investigate. I took a week of from school and work and sat all day long watching over 100 youtube videos and over 100 articles. After that week, I decided to one, become vegan and, two, do everything in my power to stop the murder. I started an organization called A Vegan Future. Our goal is to expose people to the truth by vegan food stands, information pamphlets, lectures, workshops, youtube videos, the social media, advertisement etc…
EF: Do you find the people in Israel open-minded to veganism or reluctant to try it?
OP: I think that until last year, there wasn’t any awareness towards veganism and vegans but in the last 2 years something amazing happened. Veganism became mainstream. It’s everywhere. There’s lots of vegan menus in restaurants, articles and items in the media. And overall, I can say that there is a big acceptance towards vegans and their lifestyle. Almost everyone has a vegan friend or a vegan family member. On the other hand, since the meat culture is so dominant, 90% of the population can’t even imagine their life with out meat. Therefore it’s very difficult to convince people to stop consuming animals.
EF: What are some good vegan restaurants in Israel?
OP: First of all, it’s important to know that since Israel has so few restaurants that are 100 % vegan, we, in the vegan friendly project, made a new category of vegan friendly restaurants. Those restaurants are not completely vegan but provide lots of vegan options. Usually they even have vegan menus.
1) Taam ha Chaim (The Taste of Life)
2) Bar Kaima
3) Tanat (Ethiopian restaurant)
4) Aba Gil
6) Salon be Shvazi (Living Room in Shvazi neighborhood)
The best vegan pizza in Israel is, without a doubt, Pizza Olio. It’s so good that its worth driving all the way up north just to taste it.
Great vegan ice cream is found at Icecream Gela, in Rehovot and Ramat Gan.
EF: Do u have any opinion on being kosher and being vegan?
OP: Sorry, I’m an atheist so I don’t believe in god or in kosher….But I do know that since vegan food does not have dairy products nor meat then everything that you eat as a vegan is supposed to be kosher.
From the sound of Paz’s goals and mission, Israel has a passionate champion of veganism in their midsts. Vegan Future has an active Facebook page. It’s great to hear that vegan options abound in restaurants there and that Israeli’s are pretty open to plant-based nutrition when it is made available. If Israel is on your travel list, please check out some of these restaurants and let me know what you think!
Congratulations to Omri and everyone who was involved in Israel’s Vegan Fest! What an accomplishment to bring such awareness to a country that has obviously embraced this life-changing idea of veganism.
Omri, if you’d like to update this list of favorite vegan restaurants and tell us what your plans are for this coming year, we would love to feature it on Vegan American Princess!