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Another Way to Experience Israel

If you would like to contribute to Israel in a meaningful way, learn more about our history and heritage, and make friends from all over the world, may I suggest you consider volunteering with Sar-El.

Sar-EI, an acronym from the Hebrew which translates as Volunteer Service for Israel, was founded in 1982 by Aharon Davidi.

This was the time of the first Lebanon war, when all Israeli reservists were called up, resulting in a shortage of people to work on kibbutzim and other essential jobs. An appeal went out to Jewish organizations in America, and very quickly 650 volunteers were on their way to do these jobs.

Sar-EI’s objective is to attract voluntary help for the IDF (Israel Defense Force) in supportive work on IDF bases. There is a medical supply base near Tel Aviv where volunteers have their own accommodation, and work packing medical supplies, which are also sent to disaster areas all over the world, as well as the field hospital for Palestinians at the Gaza border, and of course IDF units. On other bases, volunteers assist in kitchens, packing kit bags and other equipment, cleaning, repairing…

Each group for volunteer service lasts for 3 weeks. One can volunteer for as little as one week, or do multiple groups. Groups meet initially on Sunday morning at Ben Gurion Airport, and are taken by coach to the IDF base. The first activity is lunch; uniforms and accommodation are then allocated.

Volunteers usually work in small groups. Lifelong friendships are formed, and a lot of fun is had. Each evening the madrichot organize activities, and volunteers learn about the IDF, Hebrew, Israel past and present…

On Thursday the volunteers are taken by bus to Tel Aviv. Free accommodation is provided at the Sar-El hostel in Jaffa, [when it is available]. Volunteers can also make their own arrangements for the weekend, and many hotels and hostels give discounts for volunteers.

On Sunday morning, volunteers re-assemble at a meeting place in Tel Aviv.

One day in the second week of the program is devoted to a tour. I have been to many museums, including Yad Vashem, the Palmach  Museum and the Israel Air Force Museum in Beersheva.

By Judith B.

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