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American Holidays in the Holy Land - 24

This seemed like a good topic to cover as we enter into the holiday season. Last night (Thursday), we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Tel Aviv. I have had a bit of a cold over the past few days, so while I'm usually going 90 miles an hour, I was forced to stay home and relax. It actually felt like a holiday because I wasn't working. I even turned on one of the parades in America through the Internet. Don't get me wrong; I can't stand them! But when you live overseas, and I understand that most of you never have, you go through all kinds of crazy emotions when there is an American holiday, and you just want a little cultural connection.

Some Israeli olim (immigrants) want to cut off all of their emotional connection to their country of origin. They're happy never to go back. They only want to celebrate Israeli holidays. And that's fine. But I don't feel any less a Zionist because I also love America.

Now the strange thing is, on holidays, even Christmas, you can often get through the whole day here and not know that it is a holiday. Yes, on Christmas, it is simply another day over here. You don't feel it. Obviously, nobody is wishing people on the streets Happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas. So, if you are an ex-pat and you want to stay connected, it takes a little bit of effort.

But Thanksgiving is an easy one. I don't think I've ever met an American that didn't love Thanksgiving. So, every year that we've been here we have celebrated. Sometimes we've gotten together with a bunch of Messianic Jews from America, and other times we've gathered with a large group of Israeli unbelievers where one of the spouses, like in our case, is from the US. Because Thursday is a workday, we often celebrate it on the Friday night after Thanksgiving, Shabbat for us. But this year we had a small gathering in our home.

And I have to be honest, it was one of the best Thanksgivings I can remember. Elana made two chickens (turkeys are a little harder to come by here), Danielle, our youngest daughter, made mashed potatoes and a quiche, and Sharon, our oldest, came with her husband Andrew and brought a delicious thick soup. Elana even made some pumpkin muffins. We gathered around our small table in our small apartment, and we all shared what we were thankful for. The only thing missing was our other daughter Yael and her husband Tony, who live in the US. But of course, we FaceTime'd them.

It was nice to hear my children in their late 20s and early 30s talk about the importance of family. I knew the day would come. There are certain things you take for granted when you are younger—in fact, more than a few teenagers thought their family was more of a burden than a blessing, but as they have become adults, they realize how important the concept of family is.

Black Friday in Tel Aviv? YES!

Now here is something you might not expect. Over the past several years, I noticed more and more advertisements during the week of Thanksgiving about Black Friday. As you may know, Hanukkah comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each child is supposed to receive eights gifts from their parents. Thus, Israelis have taken on the marketing aspects of Thanksgiving without having any idea that there is a holiday called Thanksgiving. In other words, they know what Black Friday is but do not celebrate chag hahodaya (Thanksgiving). Well, at least not on the fourth Thursday of November. Technically we give thanks every Shabbat.

But sure enough, today on the Internet, as I was looking for a coffee maker, I saw dozens of Black Friday sales. You cannot walk around Tel Aviv without seeing signs advertising Black Friday sales. I don't know if Israel is the only country to hijack Black Friday or if other countries have done it as well, but I find it hilarious.

Other holidays come and go without much thought. We've never done anything for American Memorial Day (although the whole country here mourns deeply on Israeli Memorial Day), the 4th of July, or Labor Day. You just don't realize it's happening. But most Americans I know that live here celebrate Thanksgiving. And the hardest part is when part of our family is in the US and part is in Israel.

Over the last several years, we have found ourselves in America during Thanksgiving. And every now and then, we're all together on the same continent. So, when Elana and I met a young mother yesterday as we were getting coffee in the morning and found out she was American and her husband was away on business, we looked at each other and then invited her to spend Thanksgiving with us. I can't imagine being alone on Thanksgiving.


1. The command to give thanks in Hebrew is hodu.

2. Hodu is also how we say "turkey."

3. Columbus thought he had landed in India and called the native Indians. The word for India in Hebrew is hodu.

The early Pilgrims were deeply religious, so you have to wonder if they chose hodu (turkey) for this reason.

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