Happy belated Thanksgiving! Although this holiday is not celebrated at all here, we managed to find a way to bring this part of our American heritage to Israel. Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday – it brings together family and has amazing cuisine, but commemorates the official start of the colonial conquest of America. This Thanksgiving was a complicated time here in Israel as well. The holiday (called Chag HaHodaya, or holiday of thanks, in Hebrew), coincided with an outbreak of fires around Israel. The fires hit Haifa particularly hard, destroying several neighborhoods and displacing 6-7 thousand people. Luckily, the fires were nowhere close to our neighborhood in the center of the city. However, you could see a plume of smoke at the top of Mount Carmel and see the relief planes other countries had sent zooming overhead. Sam, Gabe and I, plus a few more movement people in Haifa, went to go see if we could help out at an evacuation center. Luckily, the retirement homes nearby didn’t have to be evacuated, so we didn’t have much to do. Overall, it was an anxious and scary day. It did make me feel thankful for my home, and for so many family and friends that checked up on me that day. I was also thankful that we decided to host our Thanksgiving feast the night before!
The five of us decided to cook a huge Thanksgiving dinner with all of the traditional foods for the two kvutsot (groups) our age in Haifa, numbering nearly 30 people in all. We pulled it off, even though the cranberries were almost impossible to find and we had to order the turkey days in advance. The meal was a huge success! Many of the Australians and Israelis had never encountered some of these foods before: stuffing? pumpkin pie? Their questions about the holiday (are there any rituals? why is it that all American Jews celebrate this? do you talk about native americans?) also really put some things into perspective. I realized that in many ways, Thanksgiving centers American culture – our perception of family, the founding myth that mainstream society maintains as our history. It was an interesting experience to bring that culture, in all its complexity, to our friends. Here are some pictures of the preparation and the actual event!