Being in a foreign county during Thanksgiving was not an easy experience. For us living in on the East Coast, Thanksgiving is a time in which leaves fall, apples are picked, and time is spent with our families. In Israel none of these things were possible. We, the Gap, decided that in an attempt to recreate and share thanksgiving within the Mechina, we would celebrate Gapsgiving. Going into this, I do not think any of us had any idea what it would take to create a Thanksgiving feast for 60 people, 30 of which are vegetarian, and 10 of which are vegan.
The whole extravaganza started almost a week before the Gapsgiving feast as we all sat around planning the meal. We debated things such as mash potatoes versus sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie versus apple crumble. The debate got heated as we weighed our options all taking into consideration of our tight Mechina budget. Along with the actual meal, we were also responsible for planning activities.
The night before, we all met in the kitchen after our madas [a pre-army workout], at 9:30pm. With music blasting, three people peeling vegetables, and an assortment of random spices, we began to assemble our feast. After three hours of cooking, we called it a night knowing that four more hours of cooking awaited us the next day.
Finally, it was the day of Gapsgiving. At two o’clock our schedule of classes ended, and we began our work in the kitchen. As six of us continued our cooking, two of us went to buy decorations, and began the planning for the activities. At six thirty, the cooking was nearly done, and the Gapsgiving celebrations began. The tables covered in decorative tablecloths, streamers hung across the dining room, and a poster hung with “todah” written across the middle, it was clear that Gapsgiving had commenced. Before the food was served, we nostalgically lead the Israeli’s in crafting hand turkeys. Unfortunately, many of the Israeli’s missed the instructions that prompted them to open their fingers, so many of the hand turkeys came out looking very much like hamsas. Finally, the food was finished, and we were ready to begin serving. At the end of the night, we had prepared eleven dishes-sweet potato casserole, chicken, tofu, roasted vegetables, mac and cheese, vegan pasta, gluten free pasta, salad, apple crumble, rice, cornbread. The reactions to the dishes carried from excitement to confusion. The marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes caused a greater amount of commotion than expected.
As the meal winded down, we began our closing activity. The entire Mechina sat around in a circle, and wrote anonymous notes to the people we were thankful for. As the Mechinistim [Mechina – Israeli Gap Year – participants] wrote the notes, we, the gap, delivered them to the people they were addressed to. The activity was a huge success. We ended the activity and everyone walked around hugging each other. Gapsgiving was stressful and exhausting, but at the end was full of love.
Gabi Raphael from Woodstock, NY is spending a year on BINA’s GAP Year. As part of the program, the GAP – together with their Israeli peers in the Mechina (Israeli pre-army) program – engage in innovative Jewish learning, develop as individuals and as a group, and work in volunteer placements in the surrounding neighborhoods. This is Gabi's first blog post describing celebrating American Thanksgiving on her Gap Year program.