vegan barbecue photo vegan barbecue photo Over 10,000 people showed up at a vegan barbecue in honor of Israeli Independence Day. (Photo: Vegan-Friendly Israel )

Vegan BBQ, party of 10,000

Veganism goes mainstream in Israel.

Far beyond hummus and falafel, veganism is becoming a mainstream diet in Israel. It seems unlikely in a country that had hardly heard of the term just a few years ago, but a message of compassion from animal-rights activists has led a growing number of Israelis to part with meat, fish, milk, honey and eggs.

While vegan-friendly fare naturally abounds in a culture that loves to cook with beans, couscous and olives, meat is also abundant. On Israeli Independence Day every summer, just like in the U.S., manning a grill loaded with red meat and chicken wings is considered a prerequisite for hosting a family barbecue . But this year 10,000 Israelis chose to celebrate the holiday with veggies only.

vegan-friendly israel photoVegan-Friendly Israel members are passionate and love to spread the word through fun events. (Photo: Vegan-Friendly Israel )

For Vegan-Friendly Israel founder Omri Paz, the event was a huge success showcasing vegan cuisine across a number of cultures.

“All kinds of foods were featured, basically anything you can imagine, [including] donuts, pizza, [veggie] hamburgers, dim sum, sushi, Belgian waffles, schnitzel, Indian, Ethiopian, Mexican, ice cream, falafel, shawarma, quiches and so much more,” says Paz.

The organization hopes that next year’s event will be even bigger. He contends that veganism has caught on in Israel due to a higher degree of awareness. One such awareness program has been particularly effective. As part of “Vegan Mobile,” members drive around the country parking at a different major city every month to talk about the health, environmental and animal welfare benefits of vegansim.

For activist and longtime vegan Hovav Amir, the small size of Israel has made it easier to get around and spread the vegan message. Getting the word out globally through videos on the web is also simple, because in Israel, English is a second language.

It’s about reminding people what they’re eating and how easily they can make a change in their lives. As awareness expands, so too does the availability of vegan food and products. Israel’s Dominos, for example, has become the first country in the world to offer a vegan pizza made with soy cheese.

“We posted on our Facebook page, asking people to post on the Domino’s Pizza Facebook page about how they want a vegan cheese option,” say Paz. “This was super effective. Basically, Domino’s saw the power of the vegan consumer and decided it was a good move.”

The group continues to mobilize its members by focusing on the positives of veganism and showing Israelis the benefits of parting with animal byproducts. This year Tel Aviv will be hosting a vegan conference that’s expected to have a big draw.

boy playing at vegan bbq photoBoy playing at a vegan barbecue celebration. (Photo: Vegan-Friendly Israel)

“In collaboration with all the vegan organizations in Israel, we will discuss how to promote veganism in 2015 in the most efficient and effective way,” says Paz. “Vegan activist Tal Gilboa won the Big Brother show (it’s the number one show here in Israel) and passed the message on to tens of thousands of people who became vegan thanks to her telling the truth on prime-time national television.”

The 10,000 Israelis at the vegan barbecue on Independence Day thank her.

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