Army to begin serving vegan food in mess halls
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Army to begin serving vegan food in mess halls

IDF will offer alternatives to soldiers who opt for an animal-free diet and for leather-free boots and berets

Mitch Ginsburg is the former Times of Israel military correspondent.

An illustrative photo of soldiers eating outside Gaza, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash 90)
An illustrative photo of soldiers eating outside Gaza, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash 90)

The Israeli army will offer vegan meals on all bases, canceling the current arrangement under which the Israel Defense Forces supplies soldiers who do not eat any animal products an additional several hundred shekels a month to purchase food, the army weekly Bamahane reported.

Vegan soldiers serving on an open base — that is, soldiers who sleep at home and report for duty each morning — have been given NIS 292 ($74.5) a month under the current guidelines. Those serving on closed bases, including combat soldiers, were given NIS 550 ($140).

The money was rarely sufficient and the logistics were nearly impossible. “The daily funds cover one meal per day, at best,” soldiers wrote in an online complaint in October. Additionally, they said, the restriction on bringing food from home into the IDF’s kosher kitchens and the “gaps in accessibility” made it difficult to serve as a soldier who does not eat meat, dairy, and other animal products.

The army responded quickly. “I believe the right to food is a basic right,” said Maj. Gen. (res) Yitzhak Brik, the army ombudsman, “and that it is only right that the IDF take the needs of the vegan community into account — as it does those of other communities.”

Soldiers from the Black Hebrews community, many of whom are vegan, on May 26, 2010 (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/ Flash 90)
Soldiers from the Black Hebrews community, many of whom are vegan, on May 26, 2010 (photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/Flash 90)

Brik said a letter would be sent to army bases instructing personnel to provide storage and refrigeration space for vegan food from home and that the army, beginning after Passover, would begin working with blocks of tofu in the kitchens and would provide fully vegan lentil and corn patties.

Additionally, soldiers declaring themselves to be vegan will no longer be subject to a house visit from an NCO — but rather a telephone call to verify that the soldier is, indeed, someone who omits all animal products from his diet, and does not use any animal products, such as leather or wool. The declaration may be made in front of the unit commander, rather than a lawyer.

In Israel, where five percent of the population is reportedly vegan, all soldiers, even those not yet recognized by the army as vegan, will be given the option of receiving non-leather boots and berets.

Maj. (res) Omer Yuval, the initiator of the Facebook page calling for change, told the army weekly that the heart of the group’s demands revolved around the provision of vegan food in the army mess halls and that “we strive for equal opportunity, which will allow the vegan soldier to live honorably and serve the country in the best manner possible, in whatever post they are needed.”

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