I was fortunate this year to kick off the Hanukah and Thanksgiving holiday season with my long-distance fiance, Shie, in Israel. I landed the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and was looking forward to spending the holiday with close friends and their new (adorable!) baby, and of course, Shie was coming along with me. It was not an easy decision to leave Chicago during what may well have been my last Thanksgiving stateside (before moving to Israel this summer), but I needed to take advantage of those precious days off from work and visit Shie to start some wedding plans.
Leading up to our Thanksgivukkah (or Chanksgiving) celebration, Shie was somewhat dreading this Thanksgiving dinner, positive that we would be forced to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for (in the end, we did it just to spite him). I explained that Thanksgiving is such a nice day in the States: family comes from near and far to gather around a beautifully set table, relax together by the fireplace (or television), enjoy each other’s company, and eat till you literally pass out. Shie’s response: “Oh, you mean like Shabbat?” I thought about it and realized that this Thanksgiving tradition happens almost on a weekly basis for many, many Israeli families.
Sure, not everyone gathers together for every Friday night dinner, but it is very common for even the most secular sons and daughters, distant cousins, and crazy aunts alike to travel across the (tiny) country to gather around a beautifully set table, relax together by the fireplace (or television), enjoy each other’s company, and eat incredible amounts of delicious food on a weekly basis. There is something to this. Jews around the world, and perhaps more specifically Israelis, got something right: it’s nice to see your family more than once a year. Also, you shouldn’t need to wait for that one special day a year to tell your loved ones how grateful you are for them.
My Thanksgiving this year was unlike any other I’ve experienced thus far, and I appreciated so much having American friends in Israel who included us in their celebration of one of the most delicious American traditions. And sure enough, the following day, on Friday night, I gathered around another beautiful table with Shie’s extended family, as we ate and drank and relaxed together.