Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays of the year. There is something so special about the traditions, the gathering of friends and family, the fall decor, the autumn scents and the delicious spreads that fill your table annually. I am about to celebrate my second Thanksgiving while living abroad in Israel; however, I will not be alone in doing so. Hundreds of thousands of fellow Americans have chosen to make their home in Israel too, and every year, it is possible to find somewhere in Israel to celebrate this most beloved holiday with your fellow expatriates. Here's your 411 on some of this year's Thanksgiving happenings in the holy land:
Option 1: Nefesh B'Nefesh's Annual Thanksgiving Dinner
Nefesh B'Nefesh will be hosting their annual Thanksgiving event in Tel Aviv on Thursday, November 24, 2011 at the Basel Hotel at 156 Hayarkon Street, between Gordon and Ben Gurion Streets. The feast will include a 3-course meal with all the trimmings, drinks, wine and entertainment. The dinner will take place between 7:30 pm and 11:00 pm, with a pre-registration fee of 90 NIS. If you pay at the door, it's not only 120 NIS, but also, there's a chance there might not be room available. So book early! This Thanksgiving meal attracts singles and young couples in their 20s and 30s mostly. See more information here.
Option 2: Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel's Annual Thanksgiving Celebration
Another popular choice is the AACI's annual Thanksgiving celebration, which takes place at 6:30 pm in Jerusalem at the Dr. Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center. For AACI members, the cost is 135 NIS and for nonmembers the cost is 160 NIS. Children under 12 are half-price and children under 2 are free. This event attracts local families, so bring your spouses, children and grandparents for a beautiful gathering. For more information about the AACI Thanksgiving Dinner, click here.
Option 3: Hebrew University's Hillel Thanksgiving Event
If you went to school on any U.S. college campus, you likely had a Hillel organization providing social activities to the Jewish population. The same is true here in Israel, and so, the Hebrew University's Hillel organization also hosts a special event each year for the Thanksgiving holiday, among many other holidays as well. Last year, my husband and I chose to attend this event which was a fun night with lots and lots of food and entertainment, taking place at the Park Hotel in Jerusalem. Attracting mostly university and graduate students, the Hillel Thanksgiving Dinner came at a reduced price of only 40 NIS per guest. If you are in your 20s and living in Jerusalem, I would recommending going to this great Thanksgiving celebration. For more details on this year's Thanksgiving Dinner, check out Hebrew University's Hillel website here.
Option 4: Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel Thanksgiving Dinner
I have heard that the Inbal Hotel, one of Jerusalem's finest, is also an annual host to a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Since there are so many American guests who frequent this hotel, which is a beautiful one even by American standards, it is an obvious choice for a Thanksgiving meal. The price tag, however, is hefty. For more information on the Thanksgiving Dinner available at the Inbal Hotel, please see their website here.
Option 5: Jerusalem's American Colony Hotel Thanksgiving Dinner
Another hotel option in Jerusalem is the American Colony Hotel where they host an annual Thanksgiving meal. This year, the American Colony Hotel will begin their Thanksgiving celebration at 7:00 pm on Thursday, November 24, 2011 with a delicious buffet spread. Salads, pumpkin and chestnut soup, traditional turkey stuffing, a spread of meats and vegetables as well as pumpkin pie and delectable desserts will dot the Thanksgiving buffet table. The price tag for this meal is hefty at $75 US, but it's allegedly mouth-watering. For information about the American Colony Hotel, visit their website here. For Thanksgiving specific information, please see this link here.
Option 6: Mike's Place Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
One of the hipper options in town in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem is at Mike's Place, a popular American bar that attracts, as you guessed, a largely American crowd all throughout the year. As per their annual tradition, Mike's Place will be offering a Thanksgiving meal this year on Thursday, November 24, 2011 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Dinner will include tomato soup, roasted turkey, sweet potato yams, roasted potatoes, corn on the cob, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, green beans, wine, soft drinks and apple pie for dessert. The three-course meal will cost you 120 NIS each. For more information on the dinner, see this flier here. But the fun does not stop there. After your tummies are full, the partying begins. Mike's Place will be throwing a bash with tons of giveaways for everyone coming dressed up in the traditional Cowboys & Indian theme. See information on the party here. If you're looking for a good time on Thanksgiving, Mike's Place is the place to be.
Option 7: Tel Aviv's Beit Heseg Thanksgiving Dinner
Last but not least, every year the Heseg House in Tel Aviv throws a Thanksgiving Dinner for lone soldiers, who are Israeli soldiers who have moved to Israel from abroad and are completing their service military service here in Israel. My husband was one of those soldiers between November 2003 and November 2006, albeit from Colombia. Not only would you be able to eat and mingle with the lone soldiers at this beautiful mansion on Thanksgiving, but also, your attendance will cost you nothing. Entrance to the Beit Heseg Thanksgiving Dinner is free. You just need to sign up in advance to ensure you will have a spot. The fun will begin at 7:00 pm at the Beit Heseg Mansion at Rothschild 46 in Tel Aviv. This is the same place that issued my husband his academic scholarship over the last three years, so we've been there many times and it's a beautiful place. For more information, see here.
And the options do not stop there. If you search local hotels in your specific city, whether you are in Haifa, Tel Aviv or Eilat, I am sure there are at least a handful of hotels in each city as well as university run programs offering a Thanksgiving meal next Thursday. Here in this blog I have highlighted just a few of the more popular options that I have been aware of in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv area. If you know of any more, please feel free to comment on this blog post. Wherever you choose to enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, I wish you a happy holiday in the company of good people and even better food. In the spirit of the holiday, let's not forget to give thanks for everything we're thankful for this year!