First Vegan Congress to convene in Tel Aviv

Other events this year in Israel: A vegan cookout for Independence Day and a Vegan-Mobile traveling the length of the country.

This graphic on the Vegan-Friendly Facebook page translates as: “Is it fair that the life of an animal is reduced to a barcode?”

This graphic on the Vegan-Friendly Facebook page translates as: “Is it fair that the life of an animal is reduced to a barcode?”

Thousands of readers shared ISRAEL21c’s “Israel goes vegan” report. Now we have more news for you on the no-animal-products front in Israel.

Omri Paz, founder of Vegan-Friendly Israel, is expecting more than 600 people at the country’s first-ever Vegan Congress, March 7 from 9 to 3:30, in Tel Aviv.

“The concept is to take all the activities and projects that different organizations are doing and connect them to people out there looking to be more active, and talk about the situation in Israel so that every year we can meet and talk about changes that have taken place and what we can do in the future,” Paz tells ISRAEL21c.

And that’s not all. Vegan-Friendly members plan to drive a Vegan-Mobile from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat for a month. Parking in major cities, they’ll screen videos about veganism and offer activities for the public to learn about the health, environmental and animal-welfare benefits of a plant-based diet.

“After that, we will do a vegan mangal [barbecue] on Yom Haatzma’ut [Israel Independence Day), then a Shavuot festival without cheese, and then our second annual vegan festival. About 10,000 people came to our first one, four months ago.

“The Vegan Friendly mission is to publicize the positive side of veganism, so we avoid anything bloody or negative. That’s how we got into the mainstream so easily,” says Paz, the man responsible for the Israeli Domino’s Pizza chain becoming the first in the world to offer a soy-cheese option. He’s since helped persuade several Israeli restaurant and café chains to devise vegan dishes.

A 31-year-old law student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Paz stopped eating animal products two years ago after seeing a popular video by vegan activist Gary Yourofsky. He took a week off and stayed home reading articles and watching videos on the issue, and quickly realized that he couldn’t change the world if he simply stopped eating animal products.

“So I started doing small projects, and because the truth is with me, everything was successful,” he says. He arranged for mass screenings of Yourofsky’s lecture with Hebrew subtitles, and began building a foundation to make it easier for people to stay vegan – menu options, recipes, resources and events for the Hebrew-speaking public.

He says surveys indicate the Israeli population of vegans has doubled in the past two years.

“Businesses finally see us as a market. Our Facebook group has tens of thousands of followers and thousands of recipes. Not a week goes by without a news item about veganism,” says Paz. “Israel is probably the country where it’s easiest to be vegan in the whole world.”

Meanwhile, the organization Anonymous for Animal Rights has released a location-based app, Go Vegan, which finds meat-, dairy- and egg-free entrée choices in nearby restaurants.

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About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.