Giving thanks in the holy land

Thousands of Israeli Americans and US expats gear up for the American holiday of Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Pumpkins 311 (photo credit: Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Pumpkins 311
(photo credit: Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Pumpkin and chestnut soup, traditional stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie are some of the traditions of Thanksgiving. For many American immigrants in Israel, mentions of these foods stir up as much nostalgia or more than matzah, latkes, hamentashen and other festive Jewish foods.
Jerusalem has always had a large contingency of Americans, and many do something to mark the holiday of Thanksgiving. Friends and family gather together and many prepare the traditional meal complete with all the trimmings. Frozen turkeys can be purchased at Mahane Yehuda market, and American brands of items like cranberry sauce are available at most supermarkets.
This year, a scattering of Thanksgiving-themed events will take place around Jerusalem. One of the most popular is the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem. The hotel’s meat buffet dinner is popular amongst Americans working in Jerusalem and is fully booked. Another favorite is the Inbal Hotel’s elegant themed dinner with their Jazz band playing American songs. For something more informal, Mike’s Place is holding a three-course sit-down dinner with musical entertainment followed by a cowboy and Indians costume party. Several other restaurants and bars will take advantage of the holiday to offer specials for the evening.
Organizations that help the absorption of American immigrants into Israeli society are taking the opportunity to bring Americans together. The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) held a luncheon for 50 senior citizens yesterday and promises fun for the whole family at their annual thanksgiving dinner feast tonight. “Living in Israel, it could be considered crazy to be doing Thanksgiving,” says David London, executive director of AACI. “But we see it as an opportunity to be thankful for our lives in Jerusalem and in Israel”.
The Nefesh b'Nefesh celebrations draws crowds of young singles and takes place outside the capital at the Basel Hotel in Tel Aviv. A special dinner for up to 300 American lone soldiers, organized by The Lone Soldier Center in memory of Michael Levin, also takes place in Tel Aviv. The dinner is a way of making it easier for these volunteer soldiers being away from family during the holiday and is a way of expressing gratitude to them, in the spirit of the festival.
“For many of these immigrants and expats, American identity is a big part of who they are,” says David. “Though many are happy to be in Israel, they also enjoy take part in something they are so familiar with.” is a new online international travel portal offering all the latest information on things to do, places to eat and places to stay in Jerusalem.