Beyond Vegan: Israel's Fruitarians Like It Raw

About 200 Israelis have gone to the extreme of eating only fruit − lots of it. They even celebrated a fruit-only Seder.

Larissa Miller

There are meat eaters who become vegetarians, vegetarians who become vegans, vegans who become raw-vegans (vegans who eat only raw food) − but there are also about 200 people in Israel who have gone to the extreme end of the nutrition spectrum and become fruitarians, that is, they eat only fruit.

Fruitarians eat nothing but raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Meaning, they can’t even be called “tofu-eaters” because they don’t remember what tofu tastes like.

I met 25-year-old fitness instructor Shay Buba at a Passover Seder at the vegan commune in Jaffa. Buba is set to marry Adam in a month and a half, at a fruit-only wedding to be held in a pecan orchard.

Instead of stepping on a glass, the couple will plant a mango tree. Buba met Adam at the first community-organized fruitarian picnic. She claims that she’s been working out the wedding menu with the caterer for over a year.

Aviv Bracha, a 34-year-old psychologist from Lod, is in a relationship with another fruitarian she met on the community’s Facebook page. “I was a vegan for years, but there are other aspects to consider aside from the destructive nature of the animal-based food industry,” she says.

“There’s a junk industry for vegan food as well, including wrappers and waste. Animals die in the areas where they build soy sauce factories. There are also wrapper factories. And then the bottles are shipped by plane. It’s an industry that shouldn’t exist.”

Bracha points out a prehistoric basis for fruitarianism: “For most of evolutionary history we lived in tropical areas and got nutrients from fruit, like chimpanzees. The whole cooking thing has only been around for a hundred thousand years, relative to the two and a half million years of human existence.”

“Our systems are meant to eat fruits and vegetables, you can see it in our hands and jaws,” she adds. Bracha runs the community’s Facebook page, and herself became a fruitarian after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

A typical day for Bracha begins with eating five melons. Later, she eats about a third of a watermelon, drinks clementine juice, and for dinner has cold ground tomato-and-celery soup. She says that she’s beaten the disease. “It’s truly a miracle.”

One of the problems with fruitarianism, which I experienced first-hand as I lugged a giant container of oranges onto the commune roof, is the very large quantity of fruits or vegetables that an individual needs to eat in order to be full. Bracha says that she purchases about 50 kilograms worth of fruits and vegetables every week.

Although they’re friendly and don’t harm a soul, the fruitarians are frequently a target of criticism, including from vegans − who’ve realized that they’ve been overtaken on the left.

There is considerable tension between vegans and fruitarians. “It’s not as if there aren’t any arguments,” says Buba. “Some people are stirred up by it, others feel threatened, just like veganism threatens those who eat animals and animal products. It’s hard for people to recognize the bad things they do, and to let go of addictions.”

Notable fruitarians include famous figures like Mahatma Gandhi and exiled dictator Idi Amin, and there is evidence that Leonardo Da Vinci was a fruitarian as well. Similar rumors surround Apple founder Steve Jobs, and some say that he chose the logo based on his nutritional choices. The media reported that actor Ashton Kutcher was hospitalized after trying out Jobs’ diet for a month, in preparation for a movie about Jobs.

Despite the incredibly large amount of fruits and vegetables needed to survive, Bracha says that the menu is much cheaper than a vegan menu for many reasons, including the fact that a fruitarian has no business eating in a restaurant or café.

“If you want organic fruits, it could be more expensive,” says Aviv, “but it’s definitely less expensive than eating animals and animal products.”

There were 13 people at the fruitarian Seder in Jaffa. Some of them weren’t fruitarians. The primary link to traditional Seders was the traditional songs. Aviv says that “now, a day later, I feel incredible, and not in the least bit heavy after a big meal. I remember how much I used to suffer during the Seder in the past.”

“We didn’t read the Haggadah − we laughed, we spoke about how people celebrate freedom and liberation by eating tortured souls.”

“We spoke about freedom, and how fruitarianism is the ultimate freedom,” says Buba. “Although I’m bourgeois, this is freedom from the capitalist world, freedom from the supermarket, freedom from heavy, cooked food, and it’s freedom to deal with my own feelings, without having to eat cooked junk and dealing with how it was made.”

Despite their faith in their ways, many fruitarians do miss the food they grew up with. They drink cold soup out of coffee cups to remind them of coffee, and they make pasta from zucchini with a special machine, and a kind of carrot falafel.

Bracha admits that she breaks once in a while. “I decided that once a month I’ll go to the vegetarian shwarma place and eat one vegan junk meal. The problem is that the body cleanses itself, and it’s hard to go back to junk.”

Yan Kendler