You’ll Never Guess Which City Is the Vegan Capital of the World

It’s not Portland, Austin, Orlando or even New York City. No, the vegan capital of the world is — wait for it — Tel Aviv, Israel.

If you’re finding that hard to believe, a few facts will change your mind. Per capita, there are more vegans in Tel Aviv than anywhere else in the world. For that matter, Israel itself, with its population of 8 million, reportedly has more vegans per capita than any other country.

An estimated 5 percent of the entire Israeli population is vegan. Another 8 to 10 percent are vegetarian. A full 40 percent are reducing the amount of meat they eat. To feed all these vegans and vegetarians, a veritable explosion of restaurants in Tel Aviv now offer vegan options or 100 percent vegan fare.

In fact, a whopping 400 Tel Aviv restaurants are vegan or vegan-friendly. In this context, “vegan-friendly” means at least 25 percent of menu items are plant-based. Tel Aviv is said to have the highest number of gourmet vegan restaurants in the world.

“People are letting go of their meals that have to have fish or meat,” Dan Arvatz, co-owner and chef at Bana, a Tel Aviv plant-based cafe, told The Times of Israel. “They’re enlightened and they’re bringing others to it.”

Domino’s Pizza sells its first all-vegan pizza exclusively in — you guessed it — Israel. By 2014, the company had sold over 300,000 vegan pizzas there.

Israel’s tourism website calls Tel Aviv “The World’s Best Vegan Destination”:

Keeping up with the tastes and demands of Tel Aviv locals and tourists, most of the city’s eateries — or at least those with any ounce of self-respect — have vegan-friendly options interspersed throughout their menus. Others have shifted to an entirely vegan spread, offering up a spin on local delicacies like egg-free falafel, seitan shawarma and dairy-free cheese pizza.

“It’s all going in this direction, it’s very hard-core,” Chen Weinstein, owner of Dosa Bar, told The Times of Israel. “There’s no restaurant where you can’t get something vegan, and chefs really honor that.”

Why is veganism taking such hold in Israel?

For one thing, one of the tenets of Judaism is compassion. In particular, Jewish law prohibits cruelty to animals. This prohibition is meant to extend to all animals, including pets, beasts of burden and livestock.  Jews are permitted to violate the Sabbath to a limited extent to rescue an animal in pain or at risk of death. For a people already inclined toward compassion to animals, veganism is a natural evolution.

Tza’ar ba’alei chayim, not causing pain to another living creature, is a central principle of the Jewish tradition and we violate it every time we eat something that we know was factory farmed, was debeaked, declawed, was treated cruelly,” said Conservative Rabbi David Wolpe in 2017 as he urged fellow Jews to become vegan.

Vegan food critic Ori Shavit believes a viral video helped trigger the wave of veganism that has swept Tel Aviv and all of Israel over the last five years or so. It was Gary Yourofsky’s “Best Speech You Will Ever Hear,” given at Georgia Tech in the summer of 2010.

You can watch it for yourself here:

Yourofsky argues that discriminating against animals just because they’re animals is the same thing as discriminating against people based on their race, religion or gender. He likened the cold cruelty of factory farming to an animal “holocaust” and slaughterhouses to “concentrations camps.”

The argument clearly struck a chord with Israelis. The Hebrew version of the video has been watched over one million times. And now there are about one million vegans in Israel. Coincidence?

“You always need a match to light a fire, and I think that match was that talk,” Shavit told The Tower.

Vegan food is so available in Tel Aviv that many residents and visitors rarely cook for themselves. Admittedly, it’s easier to be vegan if you let someone else do all the cooking. This is apparently one reason there are so many vegan options available now.

Many people are buying all their meals outside the home, either by eating out or bringing back ready-to-serve pre-made meals. For those who do cook, vegan grocery stores abound.

Tel Aviv suddenly sounds like a grand place to take a vegan vacation. From sampling its native hummus and falafel to dining at vegan restaurants of every cuisine type, vegans could spend a tremendous amount of time eating well without ever leaving the city.

Photo credit: Getty Images

123 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R6 days ago

great

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Kevin B
Kevin B16 days ago

Thank you

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L21 days ago

tyfs

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Sophie A
Sophie A24 days ago

thank you

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Paula A
Paula A26 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Anna R
Anna R27 days ago

thank you

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Yvonne T
Yvonne T28 days ago

thank you tel aviv...

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Hannah A
Hannah Aabout a month ago

Thank you for this

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Helen C
Helen Cabout a month ago

That was a surprised.... thanks for sharing

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