It’s not the same here. To be sure we are going to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends from “the States” who made aliyah about 18 years ago – on Friday night. We made these plans last month, so it’s not like we didn’t know Thanksgiving was coming, but it hasn’t been uppermost in my mind; I’m not taking the day off per sé (since I’m not working out of the house anyway) and maybe I will try to make tonight’s supper a bit more festive… But, I probably wouldn’t have realized yesterday that tomorrow (today) would be/is Thanksgiving if not for a reference by someone emailing me from New Jersey. So I did remember to wish Andy and Tova “Happy Thanksgiving” this morning. Tova couldn’t care less – we’re in Israel, after all. She would, however, appreciate a shipment of colorful, crunchy leaves!
I do think American Thanksgiving is important as an opportunity to join the rest of the country (darchei shalom, ways of peace, as per Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book To Heal A Fractured World, perhaps) in thanking G-d for the home and haven that the United States has been not only for the Jewish people, but for many others as well.
On the other hand, I’ve been giving thanks daily since we arrived in Israel for the opportunity to live here. Years ago I considered myself one of the least likely people to make aliyah – different culture… different washing machines… To be sure, there are a lot of different things to get used to here – like offices and stores closing mid-day, sometimes for good and sometimes to reopen a couple of hours later, or even being closed an entire day mid-week; buses that have “G’mar Chatima Tova” (wishing that everyone be inscribed in The Book of Life before Yom Kippur) scrolling above the front windshield; bus drivers with kipot (yarmulkas); and the blocks of “semi-hard yellow cheese” that are so ubiquitous here but give me no clue as to what kind of cheese I’m really eating. (Sometimes I wish I can just go to Shoprite, one of the local supermarket chains in The States, and to a health food store there, stock up on cheeses and some other items that I feel I’m missing, and bring them back to Israel.)
But despite all the challenges involved in acclimating to a different culture (everyone here wishes new olim a successful klita, a successful absorption) and missing friends and family we left behind (and the cheese), we feel very comfortable being here.
So I thank Hashem, G-d, for bringing me to a place and state of mind where the impossible suddenly became conceivable and for the opportunity to make the conceivable become reality. Hodu la’Shem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo – Give thanks to Hashem because He is good, His kindness endures forever (Psalm 118; translation from The Complete Artscroll Siddur).
P.S. – If you can send us some colorful, crunchy leaves, please Facebook me for our address!