Thanksgiving in Israel for me

When I lived in the USA, I would always celebrate Thanksgiving at home; I enjoyed the traditional holiday foods and the family time.

Also, Thanksgiving happens to be a very, very convenient holiday for Jews in the USA who observe the Sabbath (which begins at sunset on Friday) because Thanksgiving is always on Thursday. Therefore, we are already with our loved ones for the secular national holiday and don’t have to deal with the stress of rushing to arrive at their homes before sunset on Friday (because, traditionally, it’s forbidden for us to drive on the Sabbath).

That said, I’ve never been particularly committed to Thanksgiving. While I certainly would have maintained the tradition if I’d chosen to remain in and raise my family in the USA (simply by default), I lack the motivation to proactively celebrate it here in Israel. Apparently, Thanksgiving is simply not very important to me.

Still, many American Jews living in Israel do continue celebrating Thanksgiving. And, actually, I’ve found that it’s very common for them to celebrate this secular holiday on Friday evening, rather than on Thursday, because many Jewish families are already together for their weekly Friday night Sabbath dinners.

My friend Hersh is one such American Jew residing in Jerusalem, and he has been inviting us over for Thanksgiving-Sabbath Friday night dinner at his home for years (because I’m one of his local American-raised friends). If it weren’t for Hersh, I almost certainly would not have continued celebrating this holiday while living in Israel; in fact, last year, during the pandemic when Hersh did not invite us, I skipped Thanksgiving entirely. This didn’t bother me.

This year, Hersh and his family invited us once again for Thanksgiving-Sabbath dinner, and we happily accepted. Truth be told, we’re looking forward to spending quality time with them more than celebrating the holiday itself; but, unexpectedly, I find that I am harboring increased feelings of Thanksgiving nostalgia this week…

Perhaps the longer I live in Israel, and the less American I come to feel… the more ‘American’ moments come to hold a special significance for me.

While I remain feeling quite unmotivated to take any initiative and celebrate Thanksgiving with my own family at home… Maybe it’s exactly that lack of personal emotional investment in this holiday of my youth that’s beginning to niggle at me.

I seem to be feeling that Thanksgiving should matter more to me.

50 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in Israel for me”

  1. I appreciate your sentiments David. We didn’t celebrate last year except with the kids which was heaven. i do love to stop and give thanks for all we’re blessed by… I also love NO Gifts. we do an ornament exchange where stealing which is fun but with 22.. uh a little too long. With that said…. I’m funned out and even missed fun friyay. .. lol ๐Ÿ’– with so many guests who even brought things I’m still exhausted. The gift was all of the grandparents were here with all of the kids and who knows how long that will last. Hope you had fun with your friends. ๐Ÿ’–.

  2. I’m with drilling down to the thanks and gratitude. Of course here in Australia Thanksgiving is completely alien, and yet your piece raises an age old conundrum – whether to borrow from culture/religion or to go wholly with it. In my view nothing is pure, and spirituality thrives on segue and transformations, so I’m with the former (and I think history supports it too).

      1. In a way – I think that it has always happened, it is a modern phenomenon that we think of protecting culture. All cultures have syncretised and borrowed over time.

    1. ๐Ÿ’š Thanks, Lia ๐Ÿ’š – it’s really more about my navel gazing than it is about Thanksgiving or being thankful… but I figured that my perspective as an immigrant might be interesting.


      1. It absolutely is! I’m a shameful navel-gazer myself ;)) but I shamelessly enjoy the navel-gazing of others. :)) Your introspective posts are easy on the eyes… I like the way you write; direct and straightforward but with a lot of heart. ๐Ÿงก

          1. (and by “it absolutely is” I meant the part about “but I figured that my perspective as an immigrant might be interesting.”) Have a lovely end of the evening ๐Ÿ˜Š

  3. Your comment answers are so enjoyable to read. I choose to reflect on Thanksgiving as a time of gratefulness. I am missing those I shared my holiday with for most of my life. I am grateful for my shared joys. Just two of us today and I am still filled with gratitude. It is all about getting together with loved ones. Happy thanksgiving

  4. We in the UK don’t celebrate but I can understand how the roots of tradition start to niggle the older we become!! Surely too Thanksgiving can come to mean many things and Israel has much to be thankful for! Meanwhile, it is good to sit in the company of friends – enjoy!

  5. Hey, David. Just wishing you a good Thanksgiving. I’m one of those people who will be spending it alone, as usual, so from that perspective I hope those with families and friends with whom they can give thanks in their own ways for whatever reasons can appreciate this time, take advantage of the closeness of loved ones and, at the same time, remember those less fortunate who, for whatever reasons, must navigate times like this alone. At the end of the (holi)day, Thanksgiving is about love, and this sentiment should be conveyed every day of the year. We should all be thankful for what we have, and show compassion to those who have little or nothing at all. We’re all in this together, after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. and show compassion to those who have little or nothing at all.

      I wish there were more of that around the world, Mike. Thanks for sharing your reflection.


    2. I agree Thanksgiving is about Love. Love for one another is a beautiful sentiment. I have always thought it funny people thank God, or Goddess for their blessings and all they have then the next day they go out and shop. ๐Ÿ˜‚

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