Have you ever heard of a village where every single person is a vegan? If not, then be ready to get surprised!
Dimona, a small village located in the compounds of Neve Shalom in Israel, is a 50-year-old vegan village that is home to more than 3,000 African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Popularly known as the ‘Village of Peace’, the members of this religious community are natives of Chicago and arrived in Israel in 1969. These Hebrew Israelites are not Jewish, rather they consider themselves as spiritual descendants of the ancient Israelites.
They draw inspiration and guidance from The Bible, and it dictates their entire lifestyle, including diet. Hebrew Israelites believe that Adam and Eve were prescribed a plant-based diet in the Garden of Eden: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree on which is the fruit yielding seed; to you, it shall be for food. … everything that has the breath of life in it, I give every green herb for food.” (Genesis 1:29-30)
Residents of Dimona refrain from all kinds of animal products not because of health or ethical reasons, rather on religious grounds. However, with progressive advancements in science and technology, the vegan diet has proven to be healthier. It has further strengthened their belief in a vegan lifestyle.
In a report published in Israel21c in 2019, Ahmadiel Ben Yehuda, the official community spokesperson, said, “This lifestyle became the foundation for how we have to conduct ourselves. Very simply, humans are not designed to consume flesh. We are designed to consume plants.”
The community is of the view that it’s not just about humans; the vegan diet protects God’s animals too. “We have come to understand that humanity needs to take care of the creation better.”
The Inception of Teva Deli
The beginning of veganism in Israel can be traced back to time when these African Hebrew Israelites set foot in Israel. At that time, there was no availability of vegan foods like tofu, soy milk or seitan. So, they decided to invest in a factory producing tofu which led to the development of an entire range of plant-based foods made from soy and other sources.
In 1980, the community began to open a few vegan restaurants around Israel including, Taste of Life in Tel Aviv. Later in 1995, the factory was rechristened as Teva Deli and within a short period of time, the business started catering to customers on a nationwide scale. Initially, the business did not start with an aim to capture the market. In fact, there was zero demand for vegan foods and the community actually worked towards creating demand by spreading awareness and encouraging people to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Today, Teva Deli is a well-known name in meat alternatives and creates delectable vegan products exclusively from plants. Since its establishment in 1995, its selection has grown to encompass a variety of savoury dishes and other products that can be used for sandwiches, salads, stews or casseroles, and for the grill. Interestingly, Teva Deli’s vegan cheese was used by Domino’s for the trial of its dairy-free pizza in 2013.
Israel: The Harbinger of Sustainable and Ethical Food System
According to Good Food Institute Israel, the country is now recognised as a world leader in “agricultural research, tissue engineering, stem cell research and engineering, and thus has emerged as a hub for alternative protein innovation and cultivated meat companies.” Israel is making mega investments in food technology to create a sustainable food system. Recently, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Aleph Farms, a cultivated meat company, to try out its cell-based steak. “Israel will become a powerhouse for alternative meat and alternative protein,” he told the world.
Although Israel today is globally acclaimed for its vegan restaurants and has also been labelled as the vegan capital of the world, the little village of Dimona actually ushered in the true vegan movement in the country.