Thanksgiving through the eyes of an Israeli


PROVIDENCE – Before coming to the United States, I had heard a little about Thanksgiving. As a kid, I loved watching American TV shows and movies. Every year, I used to see the characters celebrating the holiday, gathering around the table as one big family and eating turkey.
But I really couldn’t understand how celebrating this holiday would feel. Celebrating the high holidays or even Hanukkah was a great experience here, and to me, it was almost the same as celebrating these holidays in Israel.

So I came to the United States and, along with teaching about Israel, I’ve started learning about the U.S. and about living here. I really think that it goes both ways. I’m asked at least five times a day questions like “What is it like to live in Israel?” “What do you miss the most?” “What is your favorite food?” And, or course, more. But I almost never get 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 just, “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 his entire family. I come from a big but close family and I can really relate to this holiday. There is nothing better than spending time with your family.

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

One aspect of Thanksgiving I can really relate to, as one who grew up on farm in a Moshav in Israel, is being thankful for the harvest and crops. It reminded me of Sukkot, which is also a holiday of harvest. But thank God we don’t need to sit in the sukkah when it’s that cold out.
Bottom line – I think that any time that brings a family together is a good time. Now, when I’m 6,000 miles away from my beloved family, I can really appreciate them, and I think that every one of us should appreciate their families, as well.

This year, just like last year, I’m going to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family here in Rhode Island. And I’m sure that I’m going to have a great time.

I want to wish all of us Chag Hanukkah Sameach (Happy Hanukkah) and of course – Enjoy!

Matan Graff ( is the Israeli Shaliach (Emissary) to Rhode Island.