On Thanksgiving Day last Thursday, Americans across the country sat down together and gave thanks for their blessings, families, and loved ones. The holiday unites Americans of all religions and backgrounds in a national day of giving thanks for their blessings.
But for lone American soldiers who have chosen to move to Israel and serve in the Israel Defense Forces, without benefit of family nearby, it is a day that is often spent alone.
This year, the American Jewish Committee proudly celebrated its 10th anniversary of hosting a full Thanksgiving meal at the AJC offices in Jerusalem for these lone soldiers - approximately 30 troops across IDF units – as a means of saying thank you for answering the call to serve and protect the people of Israel.
'Feels like a family' (photo courtesy of Israel Sun)
AJC hosted the soldiers in their uniforms for a full Thanksgiving meal - including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, arranged on a traditionally adorned table, complete with themed centerpieces – so that they feel the comforts of home, in their new home.
"I never celebrated Thanksgiving before moving to Israel," said Michal Washofsky, 20, from Cincinnati, an IDF airplane mechanic. "Now that I'm here with other lone soldiers, I celebrate and it feels like a family."
This is AJC’s 10th year in a row hosting the dinner, an anniversary celebration that coincides with another landmark event–the return home of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Every year since Shalit’s kidnapping, AJC’s Thanksgiving dinner has featured a special seat prepared in Shalit’s honor, which remained unfilled, awaiting his safe return. For the first time in years, his empty seat was not present, truly a reason for giving thanks.