Volunteers for Israel — or Sar-El, as the program is known in Israel — provides participants with the opportunity to live and workon an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base,mingle with like-minded volunteers from around the world,help Israel’s economy,take excursions to unusual Israeli sites not always available to the public,and much more.Since its inception in 1983, more than 250,000 people have participated in the program.And you can, too!
Participants live and work on the base, wearing uniforms like IDF soldiers, from Sunday morning through Thursday afternoon.There are shared sleeping quarters, with men and women residing on separate floors.The work varies and depends on the needs of the base.On the base where I served this past summer, whichprovides for the medical needs of IDF soldiers in Israeland elsewhere, we counted, packed, and labeled supplies, checked expiration dates, and organized backpacks, among several other tasks.There are jobs for all skill levels. Participants receive three filling meals per day in the base’s cafeteria; the wide array of offerings allow participants to follow their preferred eating plans.
There is a wide age range among the participants — from high school graduates to working professionals to retirees.As an octogenarian, I was the oldest in my recent program.And there have always been candidates for the lone soldier program — young men and women who come alone to Israel and whose families live elsewhere.Participants are both Jewish and non-Jewish and come from all around the world.Some countries represented recently include: Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic, China, South Africa, Canada, Greece, Scotland, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Mexico, Japan, Holland, U.S., and Israel.
The work that the volunteers do is essential and saves Israel 30-40 million shekels a year by not calling up paid reservists.
There are one-, two-, and three-week volunteer opportunities.Those of us who have family or friends in Israel can spend Shabbat with them.Others opt to stay on the beach or sightsee.For the two- or three-week programs,Sar-El treats the volunteers to tours, talks, and special destination outings, all meaningful and memorable.
Learn more about Sar-El or Volunteers for Israel at www.sar-el.org.
By Ruth Brinn
Ruth Brinn volunteers with the Sar-El program as an extension of her visits with family in Israel.