An estimate 50,000 IDF soldiers will be fed by the vegan rations, which consist of "hummus and tahini, beans in tomato sauce, cocoa spread, halva, green olives, peas and canned fruit," Lieutenant Colonel Donna Steinfield with the IDF's Technology and Logistics Division told Jerusalem Online.
"Our goal is to take care of each soldier's personal needs." Steinfeld also said that a large number of soldiers had requested the program.
Veganism is highly popular in Israel, with 4 percent of the population identifying as vegan – the highest rate of any country in the world. Experts attribute this phenomenon to it being a natural extension of the kosher Jewish dietary code, which already prohibits some meat products, like pork and shellfish. Some prominent Israeli activists have even compared the meat industry to the Holocaust, naturally a sensitive subject in the Jewish state.
The IDF made several allowances to accommodate the large vegan minority in 2014, such as leather-free combat gear. Soldiers were also granted an allowance to buy their own meals rather than the typical food served on base, and vegan options were added to mess hall menus.
But soldiers deployed in the field weren't always in a position to buy food, and they instead ate typical rations minus the animal products. Steinfeld said the new rations are meant to address this problem and ensure that all IDF soldiers, vegan or not, receive proper nutrition.
"This means food that contains protein and iron," she said. "Exactly what soldiers in the field need to give them strength."
As Napoleon once famously declared, an army marches on its stomach.
All non-Arabs in Israel are subject to mandatory conscription into the IDF when they turn 18, though approximately 26 percent of 18-year-olds are found exempt for religious, health or other reasons. Compulsory service lasts for thirty-two months for men and two years for women.