It’s that time of year again, when we high school students get an extra-long weekend for no apparent reason – other than Thanksgiving. I say this with such nonchalance because our culture has turned the holiday into something small, with little meaning.

Eden Farber

Thanksgiving now seems to be all about a historical myth, a cute day to have a nice Shabbat meal on a Thursday. There seems to be little substance to it all. You might be asking yourself, why is it even important?

It’s not a religious holiday, and there certainly aren’t any rules or regulations governing it. Yet, I believe there’s something to be gained from every holiday experience; more than just extra sleep and a turkey dinner.

That’s why this year I’ve spent some time asking myself what I’m thankful for. There are many things, of course: food, family, friends, warmth, luxuries. And then there’s one very special item: I’m very thankful that Israel exists.

“Exists?” you may be thinking. “What about thriving?”

Unfortunately, it’s quite grim over there at the moment. It’s all very fluid, and I’m certain that if I tried to detail any current events, they’d be outdated by the time this article went to print. So, I’ll spare you any newsy details.

Simply put, there have already been attacks and missiles and deaths and terror. I’m scared for Israel. Yet, we can’t only focus on the fear; we must focus on what we have in our Jewish homeland, on what is so valuable to most of us. That’s where Thanksgiving comes in.

The State of Israel didn’t exist 64 years ago. There was no symbol of Jewish identity, no homeland. There was land, for sure – since biblical times, it’s always been Eretz Yisrael – but there was no Midinat Yisrael, no State of Israel, and no modern homeland for Jews.

What we have in Midinat Yisrael is incredibly great. It’s a spiritual safe-haven for everyone outside of it and a home, not just a land, for everyone in it. We never appreciate all that we gain from just knowing that Israel exists.

It breaks my heart to hear about the terror in Israel, but it also reminds me that I have so much to appreciate from it. The country and its people have made significant contributions, not just to Jews, but also to the entire world.

Additionally, the moral values that are part of the government and the Israel Defense Forces are noteworthy, especially in a region run by despots and dictators. Israel has shown its care and concern for all its citizens – Jews and Arabs alike.

So, for me, Thanksgiving is very special this year. Israel is going through difficult times right now, yet there is so much goodness there; it’s a state full of terror, yet one also that epitomizes peace.

I’m thankful that I live in a time when there is a Jewish homeland. I’m hoping that at least for a day I can forget about all the politics and strife and just feel the warmth of the land and its people.

BY EDEN FARBER / AJT Columnist

Eden Farber, 15, is a sophomore at Yeshiva Atlanta. She was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.