I just ordered my turkey for Thanksgiving from my butcher Moshe in Modiin: 7.5 kilos of greasy, salty yumminess.
I’ve been counting down to this day, this last Thursday in November. I have always loved the fall, and not just because it’s my birthday month (although that certainty does give it extra street cred). And with Israel’s current, almost annoyingly gorgeous 75-degree weather, my autumn itch is really starting to show. I actually decided to will the fall weather to come here already. I made a double batch of maple-oatmeal cookies; I started wearing leggings and booties; I asked my best friend to keep sending me New Jersey foliage pics; I bought a cardigan in a pumpkin spice color; I even lit cinnamon candles from H&M. I did my part, truly. But nothing, n.o.t.h.i.n.g, sings more of fall for me than Thanksgiving. So my bring-fall-to-Israel campaign can go on the back burner and take a small respite this week. Thanksgiving is in the house. And I am so thankful. Pun intended.
Seven years after making aliyah and we are proud to boast that we haven’t missed celebrating this American holiday once. My kids wait for it every single year.
“Can you make two pecan pies this year? Mom, you know it’s my comfort food.”
“You’re making stuffing right? Right?!”
“Are you making sweet potatoes or sweet potato pie? Or both? Maybe both, right?”
“One word, Mom. Cornbread.”
Yes, we take our food very seriously in the Snukal home. And Thanksgiving here is like any other chag, just on steroids. (Actually it isn’t lost on me that the Hebrew word for turkey and the Hebrew word for giving thanks are the same, הודו.)
But turkey and gravy aside, Thanksgiving in Israel takes on a whole new twist. While our two older sons, maybe even our third, learned about the Pilgrims and Native Americans and the incredible friendship feast they shared, our youngest, who made aliyah at the tender age of four, couldn’t pick out a Pilgrim in a line-up.
So what’s our draw here in Israel to celebrate Thanksgiving, aside for the obvious mouth-watering meal? What is our Thanksgiving takeaway here in the Holy Land?
“It’s all about the three Fs,” our eldest explains.
“Food. Family. Football.”
(The fourth F being Film, because the rest of us who are not watching football [read: me] watches “The Blind Side.” Every single year.)
I do agree with my son that those 3 Fs are some of our main focus (another F); I mean, he had me at food and family. But I think it’s even more than that.
When we sit around our Thanksgiving table in Chashmonaim, we really do reflect on the things that we are grateful for. And these ideas and feelings echo many of the same blessings we were thankful for when we were living in Teaneck: health, family, laughter, kindness, chesed, adventure, friendship, our three-year-old puppy (okay, that one’s pretty new). They are all brachot from Hashem and all to be reflected on with incredible grace and gratitude. But now, Thanksgiving takes on a new additional twist where we also reflect and celebrate the sheer gratitude we have for things that are precious and sacred to us as a family living in Israel:
Our incredible Iron Dome system;
Our immensely brave and capable Tzahal army;
Our son finishing his army service in good health and spirit;
Our next son preparing for his army service in March;
Being able to float in the Dead Sea last Thursday and then daven at the Kotel on a whim;
Picking juicy mangoes ripe off our tree in our backyard and taking terumah and maaser;
Adopting our lone soldier who is now like a brother to our four sons and is a part of our family;
Voting and being a part of the democratic electoral system in Israel—and then voting all over again;
Sending our children on class trips where they learn from the text that they are standing in the exact spot where actual biblical events took place;
Picking bright yellow etrogim for Sukkot from our friend’s garden that smell so citrusy it’s intoxicating;
Dancing with yeshiva students in a sukkah in the Old City on Shemini Atzeret that is literally facing the Kotel glowing in the soft moonlight;
Celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut in Jerusalem with our incredible selfless lone soldier community.
These are just some of our Thanksgiving blessings as a family of six (plus puppy) living in Israel. Our seventh annual Israel-Thanksgiving celebration feast. Every year we are blessed to keep adding more to our aliyah gratitude list. Every year we set aside this last Thursday in November to try to reflect on the blessings of living life here in Israel with grace and gratefulness.
And every year there is always pecan pie.
But this year there may be two.
Esti Rosen Snukal made aliya with her family seven years ago from Teaneck to Chashmonaim. She is a contributor to The Jewish Link and advocate for lone soldiers. Esti can be reached at [email protected] Follow Esti on instagram at esti1818.