The Bible is full of nutritional advice. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Adam ignored Him, and we're still suffering the consequences. Then He told the Hebrews not to eat pork or shellfish. Methuselah heeded that and lived to the age of 969, a better result than the Pritikin plan ever produced.
Yahshua Ben Israel is well acquainted with the spiritual side of eating. At his restaurant, Vegetarian Fun Foods Supreme, he offers diners a flyer titled "Food for the Soul: The Ten Commandments of Health."
"Get out into the Sunshine daily," it prescribes, then offers citations: Genesis 2:16-18, Malachi 4:2. "Eat fresh unprocessed food whenever possible" is the next commandment. "Genesis 1:29, 3:18."
Israel is engaged in a holy war against McDonald's, Wendy's, and all the other fast-food joints "poisoning" Americans with fried meat. His Avalon Park restaurant sells no-fat, vegetarian versions of everything on the menu at the neighborhood chicken shack and shoves it across the counter just as quickly. He's got a super veggie cheeseburger made from soybeans that's as sloppy as a Big Mac. His subs are filled with avocados. All the essential soul food desserts are on the menu--banana pudding, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie--but they're all made without milk.
"People eating pizza at Pizza Hut, I got a spinach and cheese," says Israel, a trim 59-year-old who often wears a spotless white turban, a symbol of his devotion to the Black Hebrew movement. "People eating barbecue, I got a barbecued steaklet," also made from soybeans.
Israel ran a chain of vegetarian restaurants called Brother Tim's in the 1980s, but he says the world wasn't quite ready for meatless fast food back then. He also had a feeling that God didn't approve of the menu, which included fried mushrooms and french fries. He closed up shop in 1989--"Creator made me back up out of there"--and went to work selling homemade cakes and cobblers to restaurants. A year and a half ago he and his daughter, Kimberly Thompson, decided to open a new restaurant, this one with a pure menu.
"My daughter and I, we just decided to emerge," he says. "The Creator said to emerge. We're in a full-scale epidemic, and the community doesn't have an alternative to the poison." Fast food is insidious because it makes people "swollen up" and also because it denies them the "live enzymes" available in fresh vegetables. Live enzymes are important, because they keep food on the move.
"We have a direct hookup with the plant," says Israel. "We give them carbon dioxide, they give us oxygen. We basically eating dead foods now. People go to Dunkin' Donuts, they eat something that's fried, they get constipated. Death starts in the colon."
In his spare time Israel hosts a public-access TV show, Come Alive Resurrection Time. He sings, recites poetry, and tells stories that praise Yahweh. The restaurant is a ministry too, he believes.
"The body is the temple," he says. "You are the temple of the most high. If you feed the most high, you're gonna have a happy life. The food is the word."
Vegetarian Fun Foods Supreme, 1702 E. 87th, is open from 10 AM to 9 PM Monday through Saturday. It's closed Sundays, in accordance with Genesis 2:1-3. Call 773-734-6321.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Dan Machnik.