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November 23, 2022 9:38 am

Thanksgiving Reaffirms the 400-Year-Old US-Israel Nexus

avatar by Yoram Ettinger


A Thanksgiving dinner. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Thanksgiving was reportedly first celebrated in November 1621 by William Bradford, the leader of the “Mayflower” and the Governor of the Plymouth Colony.

He enhanced his appreciation of the Bible — and especially the Five Books of Moses — in Leiden, Holland, where he found refuge from religious persecution in England. While there, he heavily interacted with the Jewish community.

Bradford and the other Mayflower passengers perceived the 66-day-voyage as a reenactment of the Biblical exodus, and the departure from “the Modern Day Egypt,” to “the Modern Day Promised Land.”

As a governor in this new land, Bradford announced the celebration of Thanksgiving by citing Psalm 107, which constitutes the foundation of the Jewish concept of Thanksgiving, thanking God for ancient and modern time deliverance.

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The epitaph on Bradford’s tombstone in the old cemetery in Plymouth, Massachusetts, begins with a Hebrew phrase — “God is the succor of my life” (יהוה עזר חיי) — as befits the person who brought Hebrew to America. He aimed to make Hebrew an official language, suggesting that reading the Bible in the original language yields more benefits.

The Hebrew word for Thanksgiving’s central dish, turkey, is “Tarnegol Hodoo” (תרנגול הודו), which means “a chicken from India,” but also “a chicken of gratitude/Thanksgiving.”

Thanksgiving was proclaimed a US national holiday in 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln, as a means to heal the wounds of the Civil War.

The 400-year-old roots of the unique US-Israel nexus are highlighted in these YouTube and Facebook videos.

The author is a commentator and former Israeli ambassador.

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