At first glance, one might think that traveling as vegan in Israel, a country known as the “land of milk and honey”, would be difficult. We were relieved, however, to find it wonderfully simple.
Israel’s strategic location at the eastern edge of the sun-drenched Mediterranean works magic for fresh produce. A cornucopia of sweet figs, mangos, peaches, plums and dates await your tastebuds. If savory is more your style, the olives were some of best we’ve ever had (and we’ve been to Turkey and Greece!).
Vegan delicacies are actually staples in the Israeli diet. Falafel is widely accepted as the national snack, although we happily made it into a full meal numerous times. The combination of warm chick pea fritters, fresh hummus, trina (tahini-based sauce), vegetables, pickles and grilled eggplant, all stuffed into a soft pita, was pretty much a daily event for us. We became experts at discerning the Hebrew script for the sandwich and how to order it “im akol” (“with everything”).
We also enjoyed sabich, another pita filled sandwich with grilled eggplant, hummus and salad, topped with a sweet and spicy mango sauce. Just be sure to ask for one without the customary hard-boiled egg.
Thankfully, the abundance of chick peas, pistachios and other nuts, and tahini (sesame) in various forms makes it a breeze to get protein. Although we didn’t buy any, we also saw a wide selection of vegan milk, cheese and meat available at the larger, organic supermarkets.
Expanding even further to all these options, there are a number of strictly vegan restaurants in the country. Simply do a Google search for “vegan restaurants in Israel” and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. That’s how we found Buddha Burgers and Taste of Life. If you widen your search criteria to include vegetarian restaurants, you’ll be able to grab some vegan grub at additional amazing places, like 24 Rupee.
Furthermore, Israel is the birthplace of the global Free 269 movement, and its vegan community is the largest and loudest we’ve encountered on our travels. Sadly, we missed attending an animal rights demonstration by just a day when we were in Tel Aviv. That would have been an amazing experience!
Overall, being vegan in Israel is almost normal. Servers at restaurants understand your dietary restrictions and strangers never questioned where we get our protein. Although, that’s not to say we didn’t have our struggles. The most emotionally challenging of which was when we were in Jerusalem just outside Damascus Gate. We were looking for yet another falafel joint, when we passed by a truck with men throwing bloody heads from newly slaughtered goats into a dumpster. The dumpster was filled to the brim. Our appetite vanished and we both cried.
Thankfully, though, the ubiquitous vegan options in Israel helped us overcome the struggles we so often face in other countries. Oh, and lastly, for an interesting fact, the “honey” that the Bible refers to is actually vegan, as it’s made from dates and is called silan.