Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat and its sister movement, veganism, is the practice of abstaining from making use of any animal products. There have long been vegetarians in Israel — a 2001 Ministry of Health study found that 7.2% of the men and 9.8% of women identified themselves as vegetarians — but veganism has become increasingly popular in Israel in recent years.
Photographer Pavlina Schultz, whose blog FromTelAviv aims “to capture the spirit of Tel Aviv”, set out to capture the spirit of the city’s vegans by asking 12 of them to describe the conflicts associated with their lifestyle. She also matched each person’s visual appearance to a suitable vegetable but it is the text — answers ranging from the directly personal to the overtly political — that drive the resulting photo essay entitled Tell me what you eat.
Being misunderstood is hugely frustrating to Avi, who told Schultz, “The most difficult conflict about being vegan is to see people you cherish and love with their eyes closed, refusing to acknowledge what is a loud cry for you, and for you to continue to act normally with them.”
“The real difficulty in being a vegan is to discover the harsh reality and to deal with indifference and cruelty of the mankind,” says Dana.
“Death is in a dish across the table, among my friends, my family, and the love of my life,” says Nadav.
Some of Schultz’s subjects sought balance, as with Abigail who stated that, “…the main conflict for me was whether to eat meat on Shabbat or not. Jewish law has no problem with being a vegan, but after an investigation and understanding of the subject I decided to still eat a little meat on Shabbat dinner.”
At the other end of the spectrum: Vegan chef and animal rights activist Hasa, a member of Movement 269, a group inspired by American animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky that is opposed to any use of animals whatsoever.
Movement 269 activists perform “act[s] of solidarity and empathy towards abused animals exploited by the human race” by burning their skin by way of a hot steel brand with the number 269. (269 is the tag number of a calf the group had encountered at an Israeli slaughterhouse; because of their efforts calf 269 was not killed).
Hasa elected to be branded in March 2013.