Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Israel
Israel (1291 listings)
Travel Notes: Israel is a relatively easy place for finding vegetarian food, because according to Jewish dietary law (kashrut), meat and dairy products must be kept separate from each other. So restaurants that have kashrut certification can serve either meat or dairy but cannot serve both in the same establishment. However, according to kashrut, meat and poultry are considered to be meat, but fish is considered to be neutral (parveh) and may be served in either meat or dairy restaurants.
If you are a vegetarian, you will be able to find many options in kosher (kashrut observing) dairy restaurants, aside from the fish. Surprisingly to veg*ns and the rest of the world, who know the definition of meat to be "the flesh of an animal," kashrut laws don't view fish flesh as a kind of meat, so be cautious as 'kashrut' does not equate to 'vegetarian'.
Surprisingly, however, vegans will probably find more options in kosher meat restaurants, because the side dishes first of all must be dairy free by law. Just bear in mind that soups are likely to be meat based, and fried foods may be fried in the same cooking oil as the meat. Other than that, in kosher meat places there could be egg in some dishes, but most side dishes are vegan.
All this having been said, most restaurants outside of the religious cities Jerusalem and Tzfat (sometimes spelled Tsfat or Safed) are actually not certified kosher, but many adhere to the precepts above out of tradition.
Luckily for all of us, there is a huge vegan revolution going on in Israel today, especially in Tel Aviv. As of this writing (Feb 2017), on HappyCow there are close to 175 vegan, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly restaurants and shops in the Tel Aviv area. Of these, about a sixth are 100% vegan and these numbers are growing. There is an organization called Vegan Friendly in Israel that has created a set of strict standards that non-veg and vegetarian restaurants (and other businesses) must meet in order to get listed on its website (currently only in Hebrew). For example, these standards dictate that restaurants must have vegan options in each category of food they serve and the items must be marked on the menu. Each restaurant that qualifies receives a Vegan Friendly decal that must be prominently displayed at its entrance.
Some may not realize that there is growing awareness of veganism in most areas in Israel and many non-veg restaurants have a few vegan or veganizable dishes; you just have to ask. Don't forget that Israel is a melting pot country where you can find many ethnic eateries that are likely to offer a few vegan dishes as well.
Inexpensive falafel stands also operate throughout Israel, and these fast food eateries are typically vegan friendly.
Non-Hebrew speaking vegans might ask in English "is this dish teevonee?" or "can you make this teevonee?". Also, the word "parveh" is a vegan's best friend. It's a term that excludes all animal products except for fish, eggs, and honey. This can help narrow things down quite a bit, especially for foods that clearly don't contain fish or eggs (think chocolate or a mixed vegetable dish, for example) and it is universally understood among the Jewish population. Almost all bread in Israeli grocery stores and supermarkets is vegan, but challah bread might contain egg, so ask "yesh bazeh bay-tseem?". But bread specialty shops are likely to have dairy or egg-containing bread, so make sure to check.
Here are some Hebrew phrases you may find useful: