ISRAEL-- Vegan soldiers in the Israeli armed forces have made it clear that the food that they are served does not cater sufficiently to their diets and nutritional needs. On the heels of a protest in October, the Israel Defense Forces have decided that new dishes made of legumes and soybean will be added to the menu, which will also include items such as lentil patties in lieu of traditional meat.
This change in the mess halls of Israeli defense forces will commence in February after sufficient experimentation with various meat alternatives. The change will begin with one cooked vegan item and a schnitzel. Over a period of time, dishes suitable for both breakfast and supper will be added to the regime. At present, allowances are paid to soldiers who cannot be fed by army kitchens for various dietary reasons, as well as the nature of their duties, and other limitations of the military food system.
In October, vegan soldiers asked for official Army recognition, and many soldiers joined in submitting a class action. The soldiers claimed that they preferred proper food to money in the form of extra allowances, and the response from the Army now gives them room for optimism. Time will tell whether the resulting food service will be satisfactory.
The Army has also decided to relax conditions which apply to the recognition of vegan soldiers. Soldiers will now be able to declare their dietary beliefs to an officer ranked as a lieutenant colonel instead of just to a military lawyer. Home visits to soldiers who make such a declaration will no longer apply and instead they will be interviewed over the telephone by a welfare officer. Based on this declaration, these soldiers will also have the right to receive non-leather shoes and berets that conform to their beliefs.
It would appear that the Army has been forced to fall in line because of the many Israelis who are turning to veganism. Military service (also known as conscription), is mandatory in Israel. The country now qualifies among the top vegan countries in the world, because around 4% of the population declare themselves as such. The Vegan Fest in Tel Aviv drew 15,000 people in a single day and one of the best known restaurants in the city, Nanushka, has converted and completely revised its menu. Israeli vegans generally have a diet rooted in fruits and vegetables a together with (but not limited to) dishes made from chickpeas, such as falafel and humus.
Additionally, the dietary code followed by kosher Jews does not allow the mixing of meat and dairy products, and has led to a large increase in the popularity of toppings and desserts made without the use of dairy.