Thanksgiving from the Eyes of an Israeli

By: Matan Graff

Before coming to the US I almost never heard about Thanksgiving. As a kid, I loved watching American TV shows and movies. Every year I would see the characters celebrating Thanksgiving, gathering around the table as one big family and eating turkey. But, I really didn’t understand what celebrating this holiday would feel like. Celebrating the High Holidays—and even Hanukkah—have been a great experience in Rhode Island, and to me, it was almost the same as celebrating these holidays In Israel.

So I came to the US to teach about Israel, and interestingly enough I am the one being taught. I have started learning about the United States and about living here. I’m asked at least five times a day questions like: “How’s living in Israel?” and “What do you miss the most?” and “What is your favorite food?” I am almost never asked questions like “What’s your favorite baseball team?” (Red Sox!),”What’s your favorite American food?” (Hard to choose, there are too many options.), or “Are you enjoying the cold weather?” (It’s too cold. Where is the sun when you need it?). The truth is that I really enjoy living here and one of the reasons is that our community is just like one big family.

And Thanksgiving is all about family. I see people getting ready to go home; making phone calls to make sure every member of the family will be able to come and spend the weekend with the entire family. I come from a big close family, and I can really relate to Thanksgiving. There is nothing better than spending time with your family.

This was my second Thanksgiving celebration in the US. But there are still some parts of the holiday that I can’t really fully understand, such as the football games during Thanksgiving weekend (Don’t the team members have family to spend time with?), Black Friday (The only time in Israel you’ll find people standing in lines all night to buy something is the day after Passover), and making every type of food pumpkin flavored.

One aspect of Thanksgiving I can really relate to, as one that grew up on farm in a moshav (village) in Israel, is being thankful for the harvest and crops. It reminds me of Sukkot—also a holiday of harvest. But thank goodness, we don’t need to sit in the Sukkah when it’s this cold out.

Bottom line: I think that every occasion that brings a family together is a good time. Especially now, when I’m 6,000 miles away from my beloved Israeli family, I can really appreciate them, and I think that every one of us should appreciate our families, as well. This year, just like last year, I celebrated a great Thanksgiving with my Rhode Island family.

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