I have done Sar-El a number of times. The first was because I felt a need to contribute to Israel. I now come back for the same reason and more.
First, it is fun, a lot of fun. And, I have met really interesting people and made some lifelong friends.
The soldiers whose paths have crossed mine have touched me, all in their own way. The Madrichot do their service as 18-20 year-olds organizing and supervising 50-80+ year olds. Think about that!
Then there are the soldiers on base, some spending their time cutting tomatoes and cucumbers, some in intensive combat training and everything else in between. I have arrived on base without power. I’ve showered in cold water. I’ve slept on a foam mattress. I have washed sand, sweat, insect repellent and paint out of my hair. Maybe at the same time. And yet I keep coming back.
Why? Just this past “tour” I had a shop keeper, upon learning why I came, give me a something off his shelf and say: ”A gift from me. Thank you for what you do, keep doing it.” A clerk in a tallis shop in Safad asked why I came to Israel. His simple reply: “Thank you.”
When I visit my family they will not let me pay for anything, not even a cup of coffee. Because, “you come here to help our country.” There was a young soldier on kitchen duty, who in three weeks never spoke a word of English, but when we left he said: “Goodbye. Thank you.”
The commander on this last base came as we were leaving and said “I don’t know English. How to say thank you? Here.” Then he handed us bags of snacks for the bus ride. You never for one moment wonder if your time is appreciated. The base commanders are busy but always take the time to come and express their gratitude as do the Israeli populace.
Israel needs our support. Maybe now more than ever. Find a way that speaks to you. Volunteering on an army base is not for everyone. It has been life changing for me and I am grateful to have the opportunity to do it.
So, thank you to the countless dedicated people of VFI, Sar-El Canada, Sar-El UK et. al. for all you do to recruit, process and assist volunteers in your countries.
And, of course, to our amazing Pamela Lazarus who came in the 1990′s as a volunteer, stayed, made Aliyah and keeps this organization running with strength, class, and grit. Kol HaKavod Pam. Todah Rabah.