Veganism in Israel has come a long way, from a strange phenomenon perceived as a passing trend to a movement that has gained such resonance it has become the gospel for some. One thing seems sure – it is here to stay. The latest milestone is a vegan-only supermarket in Tel Aviv, which is recognized as Israel’s capital of veganism and one of the world’s top vegan-friendly cities, with countless vegan bars and restaurants.
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The new supermarket, Gal Hayarok (Green Wave), strives to emulate the German Veganz supermarket chain, which has branches in Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Founders Refael Avraham and Eylon Zakzer say they intend to open up five more branches across Israel by 2018.
Gal Hayarok owners’ goal is to make veganism more accessible through a simple approach to consumers and 100-percent vegan, fair-trade products. No less important, of course, are the prices, which the owners contend will be fair, but this will ultimately be judged by the customers.
The first store, which opened this week in the heart of the Carmel Market, fills 100 square meters and contains some 4,000 vegan products. The inventory includes cereals and legumes (from yellow peas to green lentils to black rice); spices (black cardamom and Philadelphia barbeque seasoning, anyone?); various types of flour (including gluten-free); tehina and oils; substitutes for milk, cheese and sugar (catering also to diabetic vegans); snacks and delicacies; vegan TV dinners, sauces, spreads, bakery goods, cookies and ice cream (including a kind made from coconut milk) as well as imported foods – Indian snacks, Japanese sushi products and Thai purees. They even have body building products, like protein bars – all, without exception, vegan.
A vegan ‘safe space’
The supermarket is the only business in Israel publicly pledged to being 100 percent vegan. Accordingly, Avraham and Zakzer define the store as a ‘safe space’ for vegans. They say all suppliers and workers will also be involved and committed by signing onto the pledge. The owners say they are committed to conducting stringent checks regarding the vegan purity of the place, and to bring in only products that accord with vegan principles. In other words, they promise they won’t sell any products that involve any exploitation of animals.
While most vegan-friendly establishments offer vegan products alongside non-vegan ones, Gal Hayarok’s “vegan certificate” seeks to assure customers that the product before them is completely vegan.
Another feature of the store is the fair-trade approach. Gal Hayarok’s owners say they will buy from small vegan producers, which are usually hard to find in the major supermarket chains. Accordingly, the main emphasis will be put on products made by the Hebrew Israelite community of Dimona. Their products include eight varieties of ice cream (some of them sugar-free), soy products, tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), quiches and even vegan pastrami.
Many of these products can only be found at Gal Hayarok. Now all that’s left is for vegans and their friends to see if the market keeps all the promises it made.