We experienced our first Thanksgiving last week. And, while I was excited, and ate my fair share of Turkey, I still didn’t really get it. My daughter (almost four and culturally savvier than I) got it, she told me the story of the Mayflower and showed me Turkey shaped handprints. Our local Israeli friends got it, getting up at 4am on Black Friday and buying things they never knew they needed. And all our neighbors who disappeared to Jersey or wherever they went, I’m sure they get it too. But I still felt I was missing something. I made sure to dress appropriately for our Thanksgiving dinner, jeans and a dress shirt, mimicking Hiloni (secular) dress-code for Shabbat meals at Dati (Religious) friends. And, in many ways I felt Hiloni for a night: I was told about some mythical history which was being commemorated, ate symbolic foods, and listened to barely cogent answers to my shallow questions. American culture maybe more accessible than deliberately obtuse Judaic practices, but at the end of the day it only really makes sense when you’re “in”.
But my real awakening this week came when I looked at the calendar and saw the proximity of Thanksgiving to Kaf-Tet BeNovember (29th November). Any Israeli worth his Zionist salt knows that the 29th November 1947 was the date that the UN voted in favor of the Partition Plan for Palestine and gave an international green light to a Jewish State. The 29th November is marked in the Israeli educational curriculum, several streets are named in memory, and it has earned the iconic status of being named gematrically: Kaf-Tet; yet there is no formal recognition of the day. More interesting is the messaging of the event in modern Israel, while Americans are searching for anyone and everyone to thank, Israelis don’t offer thanks to anyone, because we did it all by ourselves. At this juncture it would be remiss of me not to mention the uniqueness of America in the Israeli conscious. For while we conceived the idea, created the movements, settled the uninhabitable swamps and fought the battles all miraculously alone, Dod (Uncle) Sam stood by and intervened when needed. The ‘choseness’ of our narratives intersected quite poetically.
This Kaf-Tet BeNovember is the first time I have considered that we don’t recognize the goodwill of other nations in our collective reimagining of the past. It is all too easy to explain away those votes in favor as Holocaust guilt and create a history of ‘us versus them’ exceptionalism. My Israeli cynicism has not yet been dulled by American cheer, and I feel that thanking work colleagues for just ‘being there’ is more Oprah than Founding Fathers, but maybe we should take a minute to thank those who have helped us to create our greatest achievements. And so, synthesizing my calendar, I would like to give thanks to the 33 countries who voted in favor of a Jewish State in the Middle East, whatever their reasoning and intentions. Thank you: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Belorussia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, The Philippines, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Ukraine, United States of America, Soviet Union, Uruguay & Venezuela.
In a time when we are finding enemies in every corner, it is important to remember that many were happy to be our friends. There is no natural status quo to anti-Israel sentiment, nor consistency in delegitimization and there is definitely no sanctity in isolation. Kaf-Tet BeNovember should not only remind us who to be thankful to, but how the past can and should define our future.