A bird in hand can make one conspicuous, especially when Thanksgiving arrives in Israel.
When in Jerusalem, for example, the fourth Thursday in November is not your grandpa’s traditional holiday. Some, if not most, Israelis have never heard of Thanksgiving. Even so, as the date approaches, many American Israelis persist in ordering turkeys from their favorite butcher shops. (The big birds do not magically appear by the hundreds in Israeli grocery stores, come November, as they do in the US, nor does there exist, to my knowledge, a Hebrew equivalent for the word, Butterball.) Every November, American expatriates in Israel also forage in the markets for fresh cranberries, sweet potatoes and other seasonal delights in advance of the big day on which we congregate to celebrate an American tradition, albeit with no hope of watching live football, also hoping, as some of us plod along, to make ourselves understood.
“Where have you been?” my Israeli neighbor asked bluntly when our paths crossed at a Jerusalem bus stop, each of us heading home.
“To a butcher shop in Talpiyot,” I told her in broken Hebrew, “to order a turkey.”
“A turkey. A hodu. I’m from the United States. We celebrate Thanksgiving every November, even here.”
“Why?” she asked, after I repeated Thanksgiving in English six more times. (Only later learning the phrase, חג ההודיה, chag hahodayah, “holiday/festival/feast of the turkey.”)
Anxious to get past the interrogation, I mumbled something dismissive like, It’s what American’s do, but it wasn’t enough. “So, you are going to eat a turkey?” she persisted, closing in on the concept.
I sighed as I nodded, knowing her next question would, again, be why?