With hot dry conditions brought on by easterly winds and wall-to-wall warnings to Lag B’Omer revelers to light only small bonfires, if they have to light them at all, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter with a novel suggestion.
“Don’t light bonfires. There will be other opportunities,” he tweeted Wednesday evening. “But if you have to, then, maximum, make a barbecue at home. It can even be vegetarian.”
Netanyahu is not known for eschewing a good steak, unlike President Reuven Rivlin, a conscience-driven vegetarian for many years, and senior opposition MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who has been a vegetarian since the age of 13.
But according to the Hindustan Times, he was impressed by the vegetarian meal laid on at his official residence when he hosted India’s Narendra Modi, a Hindu.
Initially disappointed not to see one of his favorite fish dishes on the menu, he apparently cheered up and told Reena Pushkarna, a Tel Aviv-based chef and restaurateur originally from India, “I think I should turn vegetarian like my friend PM Modi. There’s a lot of variety there.”
The prime minister’s wife Sara scored high marks with vegetarians and vegans across the country when she took to Facebook last week to say how “shocked” she was at “heartbreaking” scenes broadcast of conditions on ships bringing sheep from Australia to Israel for fattening and slaughter.
In Israel, vegetarian and vegan food has moved way beyond bird seed and lettuce and has even entered the cafeterias of the Israel Defense Forces.
A 2015 article in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler enthused that Tel Aviv has the best vegetarian food in the world.
Last year, a report in the UK Independent newspaper declared that “with 400 vegan and vegetarian restaurants, Tel Aviv isn’t joking when it calls itself the plant-based capital of the world.”
According to the activist group Vegan-Friendly, Israel is home to approximately 300,000 vegans, the highest per capita vegan population anywhere in the world. A separate survey found that 8 percent of Israelis are vegetarian and nearly 5% are vegan.
The custom of lighting bonfires on Lag B’Omer has developed over the past hundreds years or so and has no basis in religious law. The festival marks the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a 2nd century AD sage.