How Israel began its vegan revolution

Among vegan restaurants, a highly developed animal protection movement and vegan friendly policies that have even spread into the army, in just a few years Israel has experienced an authentic vegetable revolution. What factors have turned this Middle Eastern country into a vegan paradise?

There is no country in the world that, as a percentage of the total population, has as many vegans as Israel. Until a few months ago, Israel was the only country where the famous American chain Domino's Pizza offered an entirely vegan based menu. In the city of Tel Aviv alone, there are over 400 vegan and vegetarian restaurants. If you're a member of the Israeli army and you happen to be vegan, you can be sure that no one will ever ask you to wear leather boots.

We've got all the elements to say it: Israel has lived in recent years a real "vegan revolution".

The food culture of the Middle East country has changed a lot in a short amount of time. But what has made Israel a nation that today its own ministry of tourism promotes as a "vegan destination"?

Israel’s magic formula

As with all transformations of this magnitude, it was a combination of factors of different origins that triggered Israel’s vegan turning point. Culture, traditions, geography, economy: almost as if it were a magic potion, a mix of perfectly combined elements has made Israel the vegan paradise it is today.

Traditional and Jewish culture

First of all, it must be considered that, while it is true that only a short time ago of most of the vegan restaurants that are located today in Tel Aviv did not exist and Israeli traditional cuisine includes many 100% vegan dishes.

After all, aren’t hummus and falafels the first things that come to mind when talking about Middle Eastern cuisine?

And the list of traditional dishes without animal-derived ingredients does not stop there. Arguably, one could say that Israeli traditional cuisine was vegan friendly before the term even existed.

One cannot but reserve a decisive role, then, to the Jewish culture. The strict food rules are in fact a particular characteristic of this religious culture, and many believe that this cultural substratum has made it easier to be open to diets with numerous restrictions, such as the vegan one.

A small country

Israel is a nation that extends over very small territory. Just think that from the city of Tel Aviv, practically every area of the country can be reached in just a couple of hours. This has an extraordinarily important direct effect: the slogan "from the ground to the table" is much more faithful to the reality of things in Israel than one is normally accustomed to think, a guiding principle that the Israelis have transformed into a true foundation of their way of life.

In addition, the small population makes reaching a large proportion of the population through various media easier. Putting an idea into circulation and getting it accepted by significant groups is therefore relatively simple, all the more in a country where social media is used massively.

A young country

Ori Shavit, blogger and leading face of the Israeli vegan movement, repeated it in numerous interviews: Israel is a young and highly immigrant country. As a result, "contaminations" with different cultures and the aptitude for innovation are highly developed in every field.

Unlike in contexts with more ancient and deep-rooted culinary traditions, gastronomic experimentation is not seen as a "threat" to tradition, but quite the opposite.

Although the most recent statistics draw a somewhat different reality from the tale, Israel is still recognized as "The Nation of Startups". The food sector is one of those where research efforts are most concentrated and new solutions are being tested.

Need an example? Supermeat, the startup that, by extracting animal cells with a single biopsy, aims to produce meat in the laboratory "in a potentially infinite amount".

We did say that magic was somehow involved in Israel's culinary revolution...

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