[Tablet Magazine]

The latest culinary trend to sweep the land of milk and honey is total abstinence from both. Veganism--refraining from all meat and animal products, including dairy, eggs, and even honey--is taking off in Israel, where few people had even heard of the term a few years ago.

Animal-rights organizations such as Anonymous (no connection to the hackers) and Let the Animals Live have operated for more than two decades, and there have always been vegetarians in Israel; there even is a vegetarian moshav called Amirim, founded in the 1950s in the Galilee. But while vegetarians, who avoid eating meat, are pretty common in Israel, abstaining from eggs and dairy products has been perceived here as an esoteric practice adopted by health-freaks or high-school radicals.

It's true that Israeli cuisine contains quite a few individual dishes that have become vegan favorites around the world--such as falafel, hummus, and tabbouleh--but it's also true that Israelis love meat. No Shabbat dinner is considered complete without chicken, and Yom Ha'atzmaut--Israel's Independence Day--is typically celebrated by family barbecue outings. So, how did the vegan craze hit Israel's shores?

By most accounts, it all started in April of last year, when Daniel Erlich and Hovav Amir, two animal-rights activists who run the online TV show Animal Log, added Hebrew subtitles to an American lecture about veganism and posted it on YouTube under the title "the best speech you'll ever hear." The lecturer is a Jewish American animal-rights activist named Gary Yourofsky, who usually speaks to high-school and college students in the United States. He is considered a criminal or even a terrorist by many, is banned from entering Canada and the U.K., and has a long history of arrests. He even spent 77 days in a Canadian maximum-security prison once, after raiding a fur farm.

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