Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving in Israel

I received an invite from Rick, another yeshivah student, to his Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving! In Israel!

Back in the states, thanksgiving is one of those holidays Jews can celebrate, for the most part. The big one, Christmas, is out, as are Easter and Valentine’s day, due to their Christian origins. And for most observant Jews, 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, while respected, are a pale second to the Jewish holidays. While some rabinnic authorities oppose the celebration of thanksgiving as “imitating the ways of the Goyim (natons,)” most believe the holiday to be perfectly acceptable.

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving, the idea of gratitude being basic to Judaism. The very word Jew is based on the Hebrew “Yehudi,” which comes from the name of the Jewish tribe from which most of us descend, the tribe of Yehuda, a name which is rooted in the verb “Lehodot,” “To Thank,” meaning that a Jew is one constantly thanking God .

The pilgrims themselves saw themselves as analogous to the children of Israel, fleeing from the religious repression of Pharaoh (in their case, the Church of England,) and viewed their trans-Atlantic voyage as the crossing of the Red Sea, taking them to the promised land.

Thanksgiving is, in fact, based on the “Festival of Booths,” or “Feast of the Tabernacles,” which Jews call Sukkot. Likewise, while European Christianity busied itself persecuting and killing innocent Jews, America was positively philo-Semitic. Many of the earliest required working knowledge of biblical Hebrew, and one could even write their thesis in Hebrew.

I know of Jews who escaped the Holocaust to Israel, only to find they couldn’t adjust and returned to Germany after the war ended. Just imagine the schitzoid self-hatred they must experience. One thing to be thankful for is that I come from a country which, unlike Europe and the Arab world, is not blood-stained by mellinia of anti-Semitism. Living in a homeland that isn’t my birthland, as sort of American-Jewish pilgrim, I’m reminded on a daily basis of my status as an outsider, and there’s always a longing for the familiar tastes of home. Thank God for Turkey.

I took a few pictures on the way to Ricks house, posted below.

Sunset in Pisgat Ze'ev Transferring busses at Bar Illan intersection, a major crossroads and Haredi (ultra-orthodox) neighborhood.
Looking back at the city from Ramot, where my friend Rick lives.

Rochelle, Rick's wife, carves the turkey.

The lit building is the Belzer World Center. Built by the Belzer Chassidim, it is designed to look like the Beit Hamikdash (the holy temple in Jerusalem.) Some day soon, we'll have the real thing up and running.


Toto said...

Something I also always thought was funny is that if you take the word turkey in hebrew, HODU, it is also similarly rooted in the word Lehodot! So, "Chag HaHodu" can be translated as the Turkey holiday or the ThanksHoliday! pretty cool, eh!

Glad all is going well for you! :)

Yaakova said...

That's one beautiful turkey Rochelle is carving in the photo! Happy Belated Thanksgiving. :)

Ephraim said...

Emah S,

Yes, it's amazing, Turkey Day and Thanksgiving are synonymous!


It tasted even better than it looked