Filed under: A New Reality, General, Holidays, Immigrant Moments, Israeliness, Life, Travel
I love travelling out of the country. I’ve been living in Israel for for almost 25 years now, so don’t get me wrong, this is my home.
But maybe because I don’t do it that often (compared to many Israelis who travel abroad for business or pleasure many times a year), I just love being on airplanes, going to the airport, browsing the duty free shops.
As soon as I get to Ben-Gurion Airport, and get through the labrynthe of security checks, interrogation, passport control and more security checks, I already feel like I’m abroad, with the lavish outbound terminal and its kitschy fountain spraying every few minutes, and outgoing travellers appearing happy instead of their normal tense demeanor.
I love to leave the country, but ironically, it’s hard not to think about it as soon as I’m gone. Whenever I hear Hebrew spoken abroad, my ears perk up in the same way as when I hear English on the streets here. Suddenly, it’s the Israelis I have the secret bond with, not the English speakers.
I’m spending Hannukah in the United States, where the only candles burning in the windows are artificial Christmas ones. So it will seem strange at first, and I’ll probably miss the Hannukah events and activities that are a normal part of daily life during the week back in Israel.
As we touch down back in Tel Aviv, it will be back to the loud voices, honking cars and rude behavior. And I’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I’m home. And I’ll almost immediately start thinking about my next trip abroad.
There’s an old saying in Israel – “the United States is there, but America is here.” That phrase means different things to different people, but some American olim take it literally around the end of November.
Technically speaking, we have everything we need here to celebrate a “down home” Thanksgiving; turkey is big in Israel, and many butchers stock (or can easily order) whole birds – which tend to be bigger than the ones you’d get back in the States. Cranberry sauce? Very common. Chestnuts can be found in almost every supermarket, and pumpkins are here too (although they grow them very big, and the vegetable store usually breaks them into small “retail size” pieces. You can even do the American football game thing – but only on Sunday and Monday, when Middle East TV feeds the games of the week on Fox and CBS. Believe it or not, I saw an ad on TV tonight advertising “Black Friday” prices at some chain store! Now that couldn’t be a coincidence, could it?
In the best American Jewish tradition, most Thanksgiving celebrants will actually have their turkeys Friday night, in honor of Shabbat and Thanksgiving (as we will). Although there are some intrepid people who actually hold their feast on Thanksgiving Day itself. If you’re into having guests, Thanksgiving weekend is a good time to have them – it gives you an excuse to eat turkey, which is way too big to justify preparing for just one family!
But of course, Thanksgiving isn’t just about the turkey – it’s about, of course, giving thanks. Israelis are actually very good about counting their blessings, especially when they hear bad news from other places – like in India. Right now, many Israelis are thankful that they live in a super-security sensitive country, where security authorities are able to nip potential mega-terror attacks in the bud. Seems to me like a good enough reason to have some turkey!
Earlier in the week I wrote about the voting event that occurred at the Dancing Camel brewery in Tel Aviv where American citizens in Israel had the opportunity to hand in their absentee ballots, write-in a candidate on a federal ballot and even have their ballot FedEx’ed to their local board of elections. Jerusalem got into the game as well this week and unfortunately the event was not held at a brewery (Jerusalem doesn’t have one but if it did it should be called “Brew-salem” and it’s tagline should be “Next beer in Jerusalem”) or even a bar but rather at the Orthodox Union center. Not quite as thrilling as the Dancing Camel but it looks to have certainly served it’s purpose. The LA Times’ Babylon & Beyond blog reports: The third floor of Jerusalem’s Orthodox Union building was packed Tuesday evening.
A cross section of Americans living in Israel patiently stood in a long line wrapped around the corridor, waiting to enter the room and juggle pens, passports and papers to cast their vote in the U.S. presidential elections. The obvious questions of who they voted for and why will be answered by the exit polls analysis Thursday. But beyond that, the occasion offers an interesting window into the life of Americans living in Israel, their ties to the U.S. and how they perceive their civic rights and duties. ‘Israeliness’ is popularly defined more by the experience than the citizenship. But a considerable part of being American is defined by citizenship, an apparent technicality but representing a code of values. American immigrants — recent and veteran — retain their citizenship. And this, with its rights and responsibilities, is not taken lightly — including voting. Many American immigrants to Israel have left behind families, assets and many practical domestic concerns. Physically moving to Israel weakens neither emotional ties nor a strong civic sense of belonging. Voting is as much a part of good citizenship as paying U.S. taxes, which most living in Israel do too.
I concur with the writer. On a few levels I may feel somewhat distant at times from my American brethren, but despite living in Israel for well over a decade I still feel that I would like my voice to be heard. I still have interests (financial and otherwise) in the USA and care deeply about it’s future. Israel has been known to catch American’s cold, so it’s best kept in good health. I cast my vote a few weeks ago though as a native New Yorker my vote will hardly count. Unlike most of my friends and others I have spoken to here I did not vote solely on the candidate’s views on Israel. The definition of “good for Israel” means many different things to many different people. And my view of this has certainly changed somewhat dramatically over the past few years. Whatever the outcome may be, I believe that both candidates will preserve the special relationship between the United States and Israel.