Turkey, Menorahs and Enduring the Detroit Lions: Israelis Adapt to Thanksgivukkah


By Daniel Seligson


From a sample size of one, Israelis “like their peanut butter chunky and their cranberry sauce lumpy.”

To the average Israeli, there’s just something about Thanksgiving that’s…well, completely irrelevant.

Makes sense, really. Ask yourself, how will you celebrate on Oct. 14? What’s that? You didn’t know it was Canadian Thanksgiving? EXACTLY! Israelis and Americans are close, but just maybe not that close.

Israelis come to Boston in large numbers, and this year, they’re in for a confusing treat –the once-in-a-lifetime convergence of America’s favorite Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, and America’s favorite eating holiday, All-Day Football Day (Thanksgiving).

You could probably buy a whole turkey in Tel Aviv and roast it, but would you? So, what exactly do you do if you’re Israeli and find yourself in the States when menorahs and turkeys fight for table space?

“Enjoy your friends and family, the good time, the good food,” says Ran Tazabar, an Israeli who spent a few Thanksgiving holidays in the U.S. “Don’t focus on the idea of the holiday because you barely feel it or understand it.”

And if you are going to focus on the foods, go ahead and don’t be shy about the sides. “Turkey is just OK,” Ran says. “Not more than that.”

Detroit Lions

Israeli Ari Applbaum might not know football so well, but he knows injustice when he sees it. Most years, nobody—from Haifa to Harrisburg—wants to see the Lions on national TV. That includes, of course, Lions’ fans.

Ran would take traditional Israeli Hanukkah foods anyway – in fact, given the choice between some dry-ass turkey, a fried potato pancake and a donut, most people, well, they’d take the Israeli choice.

Once the day of gluttony darkens and it’s time to light the menorah, things get a little more familiar for Israelis.

“I was surprised to see [menorahs] everywhere and liked how Hanukkah has become a public holiday – that is, celebrated very publicly – because of its proximity to Christmas,” says Ari Applbaum, an Israeli who lived in Boston for over two years and says he prefers his cranberry sauce “lumpy.”

It’s a great day for all: Israelis, Americans, Jews and gentiles alike.

Except for one gross injustice: The Detroit Lions’ game, faithfully aired to a national audience every Thanksgiving since the advent of the moving picture.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” Ari says, only later admitting, “I had to Wikipedia it.”

Dan Seligson works for CJP’s marketing team. A former journalist, he has the dubious distinction of being the only reporter in America assigned to cover the Bush v. Gore election, Supreme Court decision and its aftermath for seven lost years. Dan is a vegetarian, so he isn’t concerned that this year’s holiday Tofurky will get too dry because, as he notes, it started that way.