Matan Rudner
Immigrant, former Lone Soldier, Progressive Zionist

Trying To Be Thankful

Last week was Thanksgiving and I had trouble getting in the mood. Usually, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year; my extended family comes in and I get the week off of school. I spend hours eating, resting, and playing with my younger cousins. This year, though, was different.

As a Jew, I’m constantly thinking about what I’m thankful for. I’m incredibly thankful for being given the opportunity to live on this great, green earth. I’m so grateful that my body functions as it should. I’m grateful that I live a life of plenty: plenty of food, plenty of love, plenty of laughs. I’m indescribably thankful for the family and friends I have been blessed to be surrounded by. I’m thankful for the education I receive.

It’s quite clear to me that my life, for which I am forever indebted to G-d, would be without meaning if I did not have Israel.

My life is my identity and my identity is my Judaism. My identity is Hebrew and Israel and Israel and Israel. And so, it was hard getting in the Thanksgiving spirit when everything that is my identity continues to be threatened.

Since the kidnapping of our three boys this summer, it has become increasingly difficult to focus on what I am grateful for. It’s easy to capitulate to the fear and hatred. I hate that my brothers were kidnapped. I hate that this summer’s war revealed the true, horrific nature of Hamas. I hate that thousands of Palestinians died because Hamas has hijacked the destiny of the Gaza Strip and it’s inhabitants. I hate that the capital of the Jewish people is seen by many as “under Israeli occupation.” I hate that world media is so polluted by anti-Israel, anti-semitic sentiment, and I hate that no one realizes it. I hate the fact that virulent anti-Israel activism on college campuses has so disgustingly affected too many young Jews. I hate BDS. I hate that massacres and car-attacks against Jews still happen today. I hate that some days feel like 1939.

There is a lot of hatred.

And yet somehow all that hatred is diminished by the love I have for my culture and my people. I love that Israel thrives as a democracy and as the world’s only Jewish state. I love that today is not 1939. I love that the IDF ensures that it will never again be 1939. I love my Hebrew lessons and my Jewish youth groups. I love knowing that I am returning to my homeland in 973 days. I love the work that AIPAC does every day to ensure the safety of my future children. I love Thanksgiving, and the sound of of my mother and aunt cooking in the kitchen, laughing about something. I love to hope, I hope for peace.

Happy Holidays

About the Author
Matan made Aliyah from Dallas, Texas and served as a Lone Soldier in the IDF. He's obsessed with maps, krembo, and Zionism.
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