Eating vegan only has become so popular in Tel Aviv that a new NGO called Vegan Friendly are handing out certificates to restaurants who offer a vegan main course. Look for the sticker on the door. Serving falafel or hummous doesn’t count as these Middle Eastern foods are already known to be vegan-friendly. And the group has already convinced ice cream shops to offer choices made from soy milk.
If you live in Israel or are travelling to the country look for a green V sticker on the front of the restaurant, but don’t confuse it with the green check mark rating that some restaurants earn every year for being a local favorite.
I found this sticker (above) on a car parked in the parking lot of my child’s Waldorf school, a school and pre-school that serves organic whole foods and vegan meals (except for eggs). The sticker here says Vegan Friendly, “also me” in Hebrew.
While Meatless Monday is pretty rare in the Middle East, especially now around the Big Eid holiday when it’s customary to slaughter animals in memory of the Koranic Ibrahim and his son Ishmael, there are growing movements no matter how small.
Veganism has taken off in recent years in Israel in parallel with a growing awareness to animal rights and the environment. Israeli activists have started the worldwide movement 269Life group where they etch and burn themselves the way cows get branded. A bit extreme for my tastes. But they aim to expose the world to animal suffering in the food industry.
But thanks to Vegan Friendly (Hebrew only), an NGO, locals are able to find restaurants and products that they can eat as vegans. Founders of the site were inspired to go vegan after watching the talk by Gary Yourofsky, the Best Speech You Will Ever Hear. It is below.
Getting restaurants to go vegan in Israel may be a bit easier than anywhere else in the world. Chefs are already aware of the Jewish kashrut or kosher customs in food, which are much more stringent than the Muslim halal.
Far from the reality of what’s happening in Tel Aviv however, Jews are not allowed to eat seafood of any kind, bugs, the blood of animals, they can eat only certain kinds of animals (no pork), and they do not mix meat and milk products together. For this reason, Israeli chefs are hyper aware of what is going into their creations. Consider the gelatin (made from pork, beef or fish?) and if there are any animal products at all going into the food.
Non vegan food items?
Things to watch out for if you are cooking vegan for your friends: honey is not vegan, nor are eggs or any animal derived byproduct. That means no cheese. No gummy bears. No beer. Read here for the 14 things that seem vegan but which are not. You’ll be super surprised to find things like wine and white sugar on the list.
Back to the topic at hand: We aren’t saying that everyone needs to turn vegan, and there is good reason to support the idea of lab grown meat, but eating less meat will help ease the greenhouse gas emissions that raising cattle cause.
Eating less meat will ease animal suffering in the less than humane conditions animals as ‘live exports’ to the Middle East are facing.
Or you could just do it to be like vegan star Natalie Portman.