Israel and Thanksgiving

As we prepare for the annual American ritual of Thanksgiving one cannot help but reflect on the mix of feelings so many of us share at this time. The last couple of weeks in our community have felt a bit hectic- with the storm, the fall rush of holidays, back to school and sports schedules kicking in, etc. The thought of feasting on a nice turkey dinner with family and friends gathered, and a slightly slower pace, if only for a couple of days, brings a welcome sigh of relief.

At the very same time, we are in an elevated state of tension over what is happening in Israel. These are very unsettling times. Israel is under attack-from Gaza with missiles, and from many parts of the world with unfair criticism. There is a surreal quality to life when we examine what our greatest worries might be here and the concerns of Israelis who are living with air raid sirens, and the fear of military escalation. How can we wrap our arms around these conflicting realities? We might start by reflecting upon the Israeli situation through the lens of gratitude.

Here is my short gratitude list:

1) I am thankful for the Israel Defense Forces, the young men and women who put their lives on the line to protect this Jewish state, the older men and women who serve in the reserves and at a moments notice respond to the call to once again put on their uniforms, and their moms and dads, grandparents, and siblings who carry on normal civilian life.

2) I am thankful that the US government supports Israel’s right and responsibility to defend herself in words, dollars and deeds.

3) I am thankful that Jewish communities in the Diaspora care about Israel and understand that an attack upon Israel is an attack upon the Jewish people.

4) I am thankful that the IDF fights in a way that I am proud of as a rabbi and a Jew. They do not target civilians, they endeavor to minimize the deaths of innocent people even as the enemy uses their own as human shields, their objectives are defensible- to eliminate the barrage of missiles that threaten their existence with increasing range.

5) I am thankful that even under the current situation our congregation remains committed to Israel. We have a member of our congregation who is attending college in Tel Aviv; we have three of our college students who are planning on visiting Israel on Birthright in the next couple of weeks and we have families who are considering a trip to Israel this summer. Congregants with friends and family are staying connected on a personal level through this difficult time.

From gratitude flows action, please consider the following things you can do now:

  1. Write to your representative, tell them you appreciate their support for Israel
  2. Speak to your friends and family about Israel.
  3. Pray
  4. Send donations in support of your favorite cause in Israel
  5. Attend the program at TBC on Sunday, Dec 2 called “A Day in the Life of an IDF Soldier” from 11-12:30 when we will meet soldiers currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces and learn the challenges they face at this critical time.

Let us count our blessings this Thanksgiving, one of which is surely Israel!

Rabbi Leah Cohen

Temple B’nai Chaim, Georgetown, CT, November 2012