Uri Feinberg

Thanksgiving – a letter to our family in America

Dear Family, happy post-Thanksgiving to all of you.

We hope that sooner than later we will have an opportunity to all be around the same table again, if not for turkey, then at least for Grandma’s meatballs. Considering Thanksgiving is the best-holiday-ever, even if we don’t always celebrate it religiously, I thought to share what we are thankful for and a few other thoughts at this particular moment in time.

We are thankful for the health of our family around the world and the love and support we feel from all of you. We are thankful that our family is safe. We are thankful that Meitav wasn’t at the Nova rave on October 7th and we are thankful that Shira was stationed up North on October 7th and not down south. We are thankful that their young cousins who are deep in Gaza and on the Lebanese border respectively, are doing what they need to do, are safe and still going strong.  We are thankful that while we have friends who have children who have been fighting in Gaza and continue to be stationed there, no news is good news and they are well.

We are thankful that while we live in a country that has known challenging days, external ones and most recently, internal ones in which we found ourselves inches away from the precipice of civil dissolution, we have come together unlike anything we have ever seen.

I write this as we sit and watch a third wave of Israeli hostages return home. We know that the entire country is watching right alongside of us, or are together in the plaza in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which has become known as the ‘Hostage Square’, because it is where the families and their supporters have gathered now for 51 days and counting. We are thankful that these 14 individuals are being released as a third stage of what is supposed to be 4 very tense days in which we hope that 50 Israelis will be returned to their families – 50 infants and babies and toddlers and children and youth, as well as some of their mothers and perhaps older women as well.

We are thankful that we belong to a country and to a people who are willing to accept, that while this pause in warfare will absolutely place our soldiers directly in harm’s way, could place the larger Israeli public in harm’s way, and will allow even more of an opportunity for Hamas to parade the world through the destruction and the death which has been inflicted on Gaza and on the Palestinians in Gaza (which has happened, because of the actions of Hamas), which will bring even more pressure on Israel to cease from all hostilities and acknowledge that it is in fact the aggressor and responsible actor for this war – this is also a country that is willing to risk it all in order to save a single life. With this unprecedented reality in which we find ourselves, we indeed still have much to be thankful for (including thanks for ignoring that incredibly long run on sentence just above).

Alongside this, and perhaps in perfect symmetry with the concept of the duality of life, we are also in real pain. I speak of a very communal and national pain as well as a personal one – personal for Uri, but also for Meryl, Meitav, Shira and Adi. We are in pain because of the pain inflicted on our brothers and sisters. We are in pain because of the fear inflicted on all of us on October 7th. We are in pain because 1,200 souls were murdered in just a few hours in the most horrific and monstrous ways. We are in pain because of the children who were executed in front of their parents and tortured in front of their siblings. We are pained because of the young women and girls who were raped as an act of war. We are pained because of those Israelis who were burned alive, blown up and butchered in their homes, in their beds, with their families and without them. We are pained because of the prolonged and endless torture that the surviving members of their families are going through because of the heartless and human-less actions of Hamas who planned and then executed this attack with the purpose of not only murdering as many Israelis as possible, but also sexually attacking, purposefully torturing and kidnapping every age possible – from 9-months-old through 85 years.  And lastly, we are, sadly, not completely surprised, but hurt all the same by the attitude we have seen in the world towards all of our pain.

This of course does not include the heartfelt embrace and support we have so warmly felt from President Biden. It does include a world that has been witness over the years to Israel trying to save lives in Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, Haiti, Japan, and the US, to name a few, and a world that has been the recipient of Israeli bio-tech, water-tech and high-tech innovations which has literally made the world a better place.

We are hurt by a world that seems to equate everything Israel has done for the world, with the terror, torture, murder and destruction that Hamas, like ISIS, like Al Qaida have bestowed upon the world and upon their own people.  We are hurt by those in a world that believe so wholeheartedly in #MeToo (as they should) unless the actions were perpetrated against Israelis. We are hurt by a world that thinks that opposition to a particular Israeli government is enough to cheer the beheading of a child. We are hurt by those who rip down the posters of kidnapped Israelis, each time it is like an emotional knife in our hearts and perhaps an actual knife in the hearts of their families. We are hurt by those who cry out ‘from the river to the sea’, knowing that it means that they are calling for the physical annihilation of all of us who live in Israel and that our lives do. not. matter. We are hurt by the hate hurled at Jews around the world and the flood gates of anti-Jewish terror, demonstrations and hatred that have been blown wide open, that directly affects our family and our friends and the entirety of the Jewish People.

Fortunately, we still have room for other emotions. We are also proud. We are proud of our brave soldiers who are in their regular service and those who left their families and are in the reserves (and of course that includes Shira and Meitav who represent one of each). It is because of them, that we have been able to reach this moment as we continue to watch the first phases of release of the Israeli hostages. It is because of them that we were able to regroup and respond in the aftermath of what might be the worst moment in the history of Israel, with all of the weight that that statement brings. It is because of those soldiers, commanders and officers who are in northern Gaza and have been there, fighting for all of us to eradicate the threat of Hamas – those who continue to find themselves on the front line deep in Gaza as well as the almost 70 soldiers who have been killed since the ground incursion on October 27 and almost 400 since October 7. Sadly, this isn’t our only front line and we have thousands of soldiers, cut from the same cloth, keeping watch over our northern borders as Hezbollah has absolutely entered the war, leaving us with both soldiers and civilians who have been killed protecting the north.  In fact, all of our borders have our young women and men facing outward towards those who would do us harm.

We are proud of our civil society who has saved our country as well. Despite the inability of many in our government, it was this civil society that physically drove down south when the bullets were flying to pull people out. This civil society organized itself through civil command centers, headquarters, planning and executing anything and everything that we all needed to survive and to thrive. This is a civil society without just one head, but many, so many, individuals and groups that have risen to this occasion.

None of these groups would matter if it wasn’t for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who rose alongside them and who have been doing anything and everything that we all need done. The collective WE have packed packages for soldiers and driven them, we have picked tomatoes and avocados, we have raised money, we have repaired homes and opened our own, we have donated clothes and played with children, we have listened to stories and embraced. We have used our skills to search for the missing and to be their voice. We have had the honor to stand alongside strangers at funerals of those we don’t know and those we do. We have done God’s work identifying the dead and we have sat at shivas with hundreds around us and more on the street.

I could go on and on of how our society has responded and reacted to this moment in time that was the equivalent of what would have been close to 35,000 Americans murdered on 9/11. What is so incredible is how close we felt we were to civil war after spending the 9 months prior to October 7 in the streets demonstrating for a better Israel.  We are also proud of a feeling of familial connection with the Jewish world that has been palpable – from the almost 300,000 strong march in DC and beyond. We are proud of the pride we see amongst Jews and those who love them, even when we can imagine the fear Jews may find themselves in when they encounter hate and violent hate.

Despite the pride we feel, the strength we can gain from it, and all of the positive emotions that emanate from there, we also know that we are still in the midst of the fight. This is still that same moment in time in which we continue to fight for our lives. Whether or not there are those in the world who will call for a ceasefire or who will speak about the innocent lives on ‘both sides’ (and to be clear, Israelis are of the first to be pained by the death of children in Gaza), we do not yet have the luxury of sitting back and accepting that this war is over. It can’t be over until Hamas is no longer. Hamas has continued to declare, specifically since October 7, that it will continue to perpetrate the actions of October 7 again and again and again until Israel is no longer. Once we have successfully completed the mission at hand, only then will we be able to truly mourn. Once we have done that, we will rebuild.

The truth is that that rebirth has already begun, because the foundation of the Israel that will blossom out of this holocaust-esque reality that has been imposed upon us, will be a new Israel. For all of you who have been to Israel before, when you return, you will encounter a different Israel than you met when you were here when the girls became b’not Mitzva. For those of you who haven’t been here yet, you will encounter an Israel that is different from the one Meryl immigrated to, different than the one we have raised our beautiful family in, different than the one I have always guided through and taught about. It will be different because we are different. We have changed. We have been changed because of what we have seen, what has been done to us, because of the dissolution of our own conception of who we were up until October 7th (and what our enemy was capable of the moment that tractor took down that fence). We are most importantly changed, however, because of what we have been reminded of. We have been reminded of what it means to be an Israeli. The perseverance, determination, ability, comradery, love and bravery of our soldiers and our civilians are all part of the foundational corner stones of what it means to related to the Jewish People and interconnected with the State of Israel.

These days, we move through our days, because the world continues to spin on its axis. We drop off at dance or school, continue to work, talk to each other and embrace and sometimes even laugh at silly moments. We shop, clean, eat, drink – we continue to live, even as we continue to pause and internally debate how to respond when asked – Ma Nishma, how are we doing. We each have a low-grade headache that is with us all the time, sometimes more defined, sometimes we forget it is there and sometimes, just like that, we are reminded. We aren’t able to take as deep a breath as we would like. We hold within us a phantom pain of a missing limb for all of us for whom the world has stopped, who can’t breathe at all, who are in actual pain and who are waiting for moments of joy, just as those who have received their families back moments ago. We pray and we hope that the reminder of the 50 hostages will be released and ultimately all 240 hostages will be returned home.

Surprisingly, there is even more to say, but just because that may be true, it still can’t all be said. We have to find the words for ourselves before we can write them down for others.  Hopefully this snapshot will give you another vantage point of where we are at, where Israel is at and maybe even where you are at. Always happy to continue the conversation, answer questions or just say hi.

This is by no means an afterthought, but wanted to make clear how excited we are that Marci will be with us in just a couple of weeks. Don’t forget your tomato picking clothes .

Looking forward to better days, quieter times and an extended Thanksgiving season.



About the Author
Uri Feinberg has been a Jewish Educator for almost 30 years and a licensed tour guide since 1999. Born in the US, Uri grew up in Jerusalem. He has an MA in Contemporary Jewish Studies, and taught Jewish History for many years. Uri has spent his career working as a tour educator in Israel, has guided Jewish heritage trips in Europe and has lectured widely throughout North America on Jewish History, identity and the State of Israel. Uri and his wife Meryl have three daughters (two who are currently serving in combat units in the IDF), live in the city of Modiin, and are active members of their Reform congregation, YOZMA. Uri’s experience has been driven by a clear desire to share the power of the Land and State of Israel, to strengthen Jewish identity and a connection with the Jewish People.
Related Topics
Related Posts