Israel Goes Vegan
As animal-free eating catches on, restaurants, websites, and cooking classes reflect the latest food trend
Still, as with any trend, there will always be people opposing it, especially when the person leading it is Yourofsky, whose harsh words, and the fact he doesn’t hesitate to compare slaughterhouses to Auschwitz, raise hackles with certain people. They might not be anti-vegan, but they certainly oppose the attention the issue is getting in the media, believing that there is no place to talk about animals in a conflict zone like Israel and claiming it’s ridiculous to invest so much energy in animal rights in a country where human rights are still a sensitive issue.
While Yourofsky’s militant rhetoric might be off-putting, Israeli veganism has another, friendlier face. Restaurant critic Ori Shavit used to be a self-professed carnivore with a huge appetite for meat and seafood until she watched Yourofsky’s speech 16 months ago. She became vegetarian immediately, and it took her no longer than two weeks to go all the way to veganism. “There is something in [Yourofsky’s] simplicity and directness that evidently touches Israelis,” Shavit told me in an interview. “Israelis immediately connect to his way of communication, because he tells it like it is. I think Israelis in general are open-minded and curious and aren’t afraid of change. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we’re still a young nation that is growing and evolving.”
For Shavit, going vegan meant not only a dietary change, but also a career change—obviously a restaurant critic who can’t taste the steak isn’t very useful. But luckily, Shavit has found publications interested in articles about vegan cuisine, and she also runs the popular blog Vegan Girls Have More Fun, which offers a comprehensive Israeli vegan dining guide in English.
Not wanting to change her lifestyle completely, Shavit went on a public mission to get the chefs of her favorite gourmet restaurants to incorporate vegan dishes in their menus. Seeing the good responses and positive publicity they received, they continued cooperating with Shavit and creating special vegan nights and pointing out vegan options in their regular menus. Thanks to Shavit’s enthusiasm, veganism is continuing to spread in Israel. “Not a day goes by without something new happening in the field of vegan culinary,” she said, the latest being a campaign to cancel the additional three shekels that most cafés in Israel charge if you wish to substitute soy milk for regular milk in your coffee. “The Aroma-Israel chain, for instance, which operates 117 branches around the country, just launched a new menu with vegan options, introduced tofu to all their branches, and stopped charging an additional fee for soy milk.”
Shavit believes that veganism in Israel is here to stay: “I don’t think veganism is a passing trend,” she said. “Veganism is a culture, a way of life, and a worldview. After achieving a deeper understanding of the vegan agenda, very few go back.”
Erlich and Amir, the two men who started this whole thing, are also optimistic, but maybe a bit more realistic: “This is not a passing trend, but we aren’t witnessing a real revolution,” said Amir. “Unfortunately, most people, unless they will be forced to do otherwise, will continue to consume products that cause inconceivable suffering for other creatures that never caused them any harm.”
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