Inicio NOTICIAS Thousands flock to Ramat Gan for world’s largest vegan festival

Thousands flock to Ramat Gan for world’s largest vegan festival

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Itongadol.- Foregoing the chicken kabab barbecues that perfume Israel’s parks each Sukkot holiday, thousands flocked to the Ramat Gan National Park on Monday – lining up to taste “the best” vegan malabi, try on a pair of vegan shoes and take home a fresh box of vegan condoms.

Animal rights activists, natural food lovers and simply curious citizens alike gathered for Vegan Fest, which claims to be the world’s largest vegan festival. The festival attracted some 15,000 advanced ticket purchases and brought together about a hundred vendors aiming to sell their free-of-animal-product wares. The second year running, Vegan Fest is the brainchild of Omri Paz, the director of the non-profit organization Vegan-Friendly, which aims to make veganism accessible and socially acceptable among Israelis.

“There are people here who are vegan, vegetarians and people who eat meat,” Uria Yaakoba, the volunteer coordinator for the event, told The Jerusalem Post, while managing some 150 volunteers over a constantly chirping walkie-talkie.

“People are waking up and becoming exposed to this,” he added.

Dodging through crowds of revelers sporting t-shirts with slogans like “I love vegan boys” and “Proud to be a vegan,” visitors sampled everything from animal-free cosmetics and vitamins to vegan Domino’s Pizza. Vegan catering services advertised their wares, while the Knaffe Noga stand offered “the best knaffe and malabi from Israel with love” – Middle Eastern desserts that typically require copious amounts of cheese and milk. Here, however, coconut cream was the base of choice.

“Some people like it more than the original,” said the company’s owner, Danny Phillips.

Young women eyed the Katalina shoe booth, purchasing non-leather flats and boots that went for between NIS 150 and NIS 300, depending on the style.

And just around the corner from rows of colorful shoes, NIS 50 could buy the discerning customer a box of organic and vegan prophylactics – offering choices such as wildberry, blueberry, tight fit and super max.

“We have the biggest condom in Israel,” said Ira Makiyenko, sporting a shirt emblazoned with a popular expletive that advocated the use of vegan condoms.

Makiyenko personally helped bring the Australian Glyde condoms to Israel a year-and-a-half ago. Attracting mostly female customers to her booth, she explained how typical condoms include milk proteins in their production, while these contain no chemicals, are comfortably designed and promise safety.

A testament to the diversity of vendors present, across the field and amid a slew of animal rights groups were representatives of the ultra-Orthodox organization Behemla: Haredim Volunteering for Animals.

“We deal mostly with animal rights in industry,” the organization’s chairman, Yehuda Shine, told The Jerusalem Post. “We support veganism – it’s not our central agenda.”

Shine said that he and his colleagues have conducted several successful campaigns, including one to curb the practice of kapparot with live chickens on Yom Kippur. In addition, the group advocates for the use of synthetic streimels rather than those traditionally made of fur, and spreads awareness about animal rights both in religious and secular schools, he explained.

“There is a solution for every challenge – it’s all about awareness,” Shine added.

In addition to the booths selling products and aiming to educate passers-by, a “holistic” tent provided classes such as Iyengar yoga throughout the day, while a children’s play area offered a giant moonwalk obstacle course.

Throughout the entire event, which opened at noon and was slated to last till 11 p.m., various DJs and performers took to the main stage, while vegan industry experts and academics partook in a series of lectures in a tent filled to capacity.

While most of the lecturers were Israelis, the lineup also included New Yorker Prof. Richard Schwartz, who serves as president of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. Schwartz spoke about why Jews should be vegans, as the diet is most consistent with Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion and protecting the environment. A shift to vegan diets, Schwartz argued, could reduce diseases among Jews and humans as a whole, as well as help curb climate disasters.

"Having the world\’s largest vegan festival in Israel is a tribute to Israel," Schwartz told the Post. "It demonstrates that many Jews take seriously Jewish teachings on compassion, environmental stewardship, preservation of human life, and concern for the poor."

In the midst of the event that attracted so many people from various ages, communities and interests, Yaakoba, the volunteer coordinator, said he hoped that the festival would bring more people to embrace the vegan lifestyle.

“We don’t see it as a trend,” he added. “We think people are moving toward veganism, not going back.”

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