Some people joke that Thanksgiving, the quintessential American holiday, is also the ideal Jewish festival. After all, it’s about family, food, time off from work, and without those many hours in the synagogue.
This year, less than a month after a devastating hurricane here and in the midst of warfare that has been traumatizing Israel, Thanksgiving comes at a moment that transcends the familiar parades, feasts and Black Friday shopping. Most of us can be particularly grateful for the blessings we too often take for granted: a warm home, food on our table and spending our days and nights without fear of attack.
As Jews striving to fulfill the biblical command to be a holy people, through commitment to bettering the world, we can take pride in witnessing young Israelis volunteering to come here and help restore homes devastated by Sandy, as well as emergency missions to Israel by American Jewish groups to offer solace and solidarity.
These, and many other acts of kindness spanning the thousands of miles that separate the U.S. and Israel, are tangible signs that the concept of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh LaZeh, that every Jew is responsible, one for the other, still lives.
It’s a time to recognize our responsibilities to help ensure a safe and secure Israel even as we continue to debate the wisdom of specific policies of the government in Jerusalem. What seems obvious to many of us, that Israel is fighting to end the constant barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza into Israeli cities and towns, is not clear to others. Perhaps they forget that Israel withdrew, completely and painfully, from Gaza years ago in the hopes that those who would take over the greenhouses left for them would use them. Instead, the greenhouses were destroyed, and the focus of the leadership turned to creating and importing weapons to attack Israel rather than building a society for its own people. That impulse for aggression has only grown in recent months as the attacks became more frequent and more bold.
So we read with morbid fascination this week when The New York Times editorialized that “Israel is not the only party responsible for the current war.” How generous of The Times to note that there are other factors at play besides Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s inability to achieve a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. No mention, of course, that the PA has refused to come back to the negotiating table or that the sole purpose of Hamas, as expressed in its charter, is to murder Jews, destroy the Jewish state and create in its place a holy Muslim society.
We lovers of Zion have a long way to go in convincing the world of the justness of Israel’s actions against an enemy whose only purpose is to make war. In the meantime, on Thanksgiving weekend, we take time to count our blessings even as we resolve to give more of ourselves to those who need us, here and overseas.