Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“So how are you celebrating Thanksgiving?” Any other year, the answer would have been simple. In New York, we usually went with cousins to the Thanksgiving Day Parade and capped off the day with a dinner at my parents’ home. When we spent Thanksgiving in Toronto, my mother-in-law would go out of her way to purchase a turkey so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on the holiday.

So how did we celebrate Thanksgiving this year? We just went about our usual day. My husband worked, my kids went to school and, I kept myself occupied with the usual job search and household chores. While the past eight months have at times been chaotic, we have created a new normal for ourselves here in Israel, which I guess means that we are slowly leaving bits of our old lives behind.

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Well… only some bits. The fact of the matter is we are always wondering what’s happening back in our old home. Growing up, I read Israeli papers to keep up on the matzav (situation) in Israel. These days, I find myself starting each day reading through the New York papers to keep up to date on what the matzav is there.

Even worse perhaps, I haven’t been able to leave the WhatsApp chat for the moms of my old local neighborhood or my old apartment building’s Facebook group. While updates regarding stolen packages and sheitel sales in Washington Heights are no longer relevant to me, I’m just not yet able to close this peephole into our lives back in New York.

Indeed, some days it seems like we still live in New York. My husband has continued to work for his American company, and even still has his 212 office phone number. His clients are often surprised (when they wake us up in the middle of the night) to learn that he has moved overseas.

While my original plan was to take exams to obtain an Israeli law license, I have found that most of the job postings here in Israel actually seek attorneys with American law licenses. So rather than immersing myself in Israeli law textbooks, I find myself trying to keep abreast of New York law developments.

While I embrace my new Israeli identity, I remain a proud American. It was thus so important to me that, despite the distance, I find a way to vote for president. Thankfully, I was able to easily obtain an absentee ballot by e-mail.

While I received my digital ballot in mid-October, the paper copy had to be received by the New York City Board of Elections prior to Election Day to be counted. Given the notoriously slow Israeli post, timely arrival of my ballot would certainly not be a given. Ballots also could be dropped off at the U.S. Embassy to travel to the United States by diplomatic pouch, but according to the U.S. Embassy’s website, the ballot could take up to four weeks to arrive – which would likely render the vote untimely.

Thanks to the efforts of another oleh, I was able to ensure my vote arrived in time. The oleh was scheduled to travel to the States and volunteered to bring along any completed ballots and mail them upon his arrival in the States. While I may have been an ocean away on Election Day, my vote was nonetheless able to be counted among my fellow Americans’ ballots.

I’ll admit that as we sat down to our dinner on Thanksgiving night, I had a hankering for the comfort foods of our usual Thanksgiving feasts. While we have grown to love some Israeli foods (nuts and exotic spice mixes), and to tolerate others (Israeli grape juice and pizza), the foods don’t yet offer the comfort of home. With this in mind, my husband and I decided to venture beyond our usual makolet to an upscale supermarket chain that carries American products.

Seeing the familiar foods – duck sauce, Italian dressing, graham cracker pie crusts, and Cherry Coke! – was like seeing old friends. In a short time, I had a cart piled high with food of no health value but oddly high sentimental value. At the checkout, I was amazed that we had somehow spent over 400 shekel on almost nothing at all, but the food felt worth every cent.

As time goes on, I know we will shed more parts of our old lives and adapt to more parts of our new ones. While we may no longer have annual Thanksgiving celebrations at home, we will nonetheless continue to celebrate and be thankful for the wonderful lives we have been blessed with both in our old and new homes.

To all our friends and family: A belated Happy Thanksgiving!

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Aviva Karoly made aliyah to Israel with her husband and two children on March 19, with Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and JNF-USA. She can be reached at myaliyah2020@gmail.com.