American students bring Thanksgiving’s message of coexistence to the Middle East

masa middle east This Thanksgiving, holiday traditions and messages are going farther than the family dinner table. In fact, they are going all the way to the Middle East as American young adults spending time abroad will be spreading the message of coexistence throughout diverse communities by recreating the Thanksgiving feast from their childhood.

Masa Israel Journey, a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Government, sends more than 6,000 young Americans to Israel each year to study, intern, and volunteer, as well as spread a peaceful and harmonious message. Diverse groups of people such as Arabs, Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Europeans, and American peers are all positively affected by the introduction and blending of Thanksgiving traditions.

Some examples of how American young adults have spread their traditions and the message of coexistence include:

  • Abra Berkowitz, a Boston-native who studied at Masa Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, shared a potluck dinner with other students from Jordan, Isreael, the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. A blending of cultures could be seen by a turkey seasoned with zaatar and a side dish of tahini stuffing.
  • Detroit-born Josh Kanter, who enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel internship program, celebrated Thanksgiving at a Herbrew University-sponsored dinner with other international students from Argentina, Uruguay, Guatemala, Israel, and the United States. While there was turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, hummus was also a big hit at the table.
  • Jessica Simon from Philadelphia, who studied at Masa Israel’s Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, was also volunteering at Jerusalem Open House, the organization that supports LGBT people and their allies in Jerusalem. She planned a Thanksgiving potluck and read from a gay friendly prayer book with Hebrew explanations about Thanksgiving to the Israeli attendees. Because sweet potatoes were not available, Simon substituted them with carrot soup.

For information on Masa Israel Journey and how they help spread the message of coexistence, click here.