No Milk, No Honey: Veganism in Israel and the West Bank
January 18, 2017
Israelis and Palestinians may fight over which side holds claim to the classic chickpea dip, hummus, but increasing numbers on each side value the dish for the same reason: it is vegan.
Israel’s vegan trend began in liberal neighborhoods in Tel Aviv but now reaches far beyond them. Israel has twice the number of vegans now than it did in 2010, and more vegans per capita than any other country: five percent of Israel’s population completely abstains from animal products. Within that community is tremendous diversity.
The largest fraction of Israeli vegans is comprised of socially liberal Jews, motivated by a desire to protect animal rights. It is no longer a fringe movement. Prime Minister Netanyahu adopted Meatless Mondays for the Knesset cafeteria in 2014, and the following year, the army began offering leather-free boots and a special meal plan to hundreds of vegan soldiers.
At the other side of the social spectrum, a small but growing number of rabbis and members of the orthodox community argue that modern farming methods cause suffering to animals, which violates Jewish scripture. One prominent Hasidic rabbi recently called for followers to abandon the luxurious fur hats that males wear on Sabbaths and festivals, substituting cruelty-free—and much cheaper—synthetics.
A tiny but enthusiastic vegan movement has even sprouted in the West Bank, where Palestinian entrepreneurs have opened vegan ventures that include the Arab world’s first vegan university cafeteria. The movement is embedded in a broad call for human compassion, and it is linked to liberal activists in the United Kingdom who support the Palestinian cause internationally. There is no formal link with a like-minded Israeli group.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.