It is a changing world, and the French saying- ‘Plus ca change, plus c’est meme chose’ (the more things change the more they remain the same’) -is certainly true!
In a changing world the most constant thing is the Jewish Homeland – Jerusalem still has the syndrome – its still beautiful in its own way, and its still Ha Aretz the land with a heart.
I love the fact that to Hebrew speaker – there are only two places on earth ‘Ha Aretz, and Bachoots l” Aretz) – the land and outside the land.
I think that Sept 2016 was my 25th tour on the Sar-El program. I am not sure – I would have to count my thank you certificates – but I am an addict – ever since the 2nd Intifada began in 2001/2 – I felt I had to do something practical to help, and so for the past 14 years I have felt a part of the Jewish homeland, fully engaged in supporting them in a small way, and making SO many friends all over the world. Its a privilege to be part of Sar-El and spend time with the IDF.
It was clear that Sar-El volunteers are needed just as much as ever, or even more so, and in 28 centigrade heat I was happy to be back at Tel Ha Shomer – doing repetitive work tasks, often heavy, and helping to pack and unpack medical back packs which go out to disaster areas all over the world as well as the ‘field’. . In fact we discovered a label which proved that the Israelis were over helping with the Japanese Tsunami. How many people know that Israeli assistance was given to help flood victims in Yorkshire this year? I wish the world media would give Israel credit for all its efforts to help and bless. Living on the base of course has its hazards – and in the women’s rooms, cat fights about the air-conditioning, and the shortage of toilets and showers was inevitable – but very funny in hindsight.
The second week of the tour there was an emergency drill which at first was an annoyance – but then an experience I will not forget. We were told that when the siren went, we must run to the nearest shelter, which was the ‘men’s bathrooms’ – (not an appealing prospect), so instead we followed our Bay Supervisor to ‘the trenches’. These were located in a grove of Eucalyptus trees, and were dug down below ground level, but carpeted with eucalyptus leaves, and the odd plastic bag! Having dived into them, we sat looking up at a blue sky and the tree branches, and noticed two bright green parrots playing and screeching amongst them. We were told to wait for a full ten minutes, as it would take this long for the ‘fallout’ of any rocket debris in the air. At this point it no longer became a game and the realization of what life is like under constant and relentless attack hit home.
A Sar-El volunteer has a good time – companionship, fun and excellent food and evening activities under the stars - but people living in Israel have to live with threats, often hardship and financial stresses, and very little time to relax and enjoy life. The pace of life in Israel is fast moving, and its marvellous to me that people are so happy, caring and full of life.
No wonder I am an addict and keep going back.
This time a group of nine Canadian ladies joined the group. They had all been together on a ‘march of the living’ in Poland a few years ago and wanted to follow it up with another ‘supportive’ experience. They were such a delight – full of fun, and loaded with all kinds of good things, blow up mattresses, fluffy bed quilts, food – every kind of possible medication you might need, as if they were intending to live ‘rough’ on an expedition to the Arctic or something similar. They asked me to play my Ukulele – and to the tune of ‘Delilia’ all joyfully sang and danced the Hora .
Coming from a post Brexit UK with half the population complaining and half of them (or at least 17 million plus) celebrating the prospect of a return to a Sovereign Britain, it was a delight to be in the tiny Country of Israel where Jewish tradition and diversity is celebrated – and how!!
I returned in time for Rosh HaShana, but as soon as I got back, missed the sound of the Shofar in the mornings, and waking every day to a day filled with diversions and events and so it won’t be long before I go back for another ‘fix’.
If anyone reading this has never tried the Sar-El program – then I really recommend it, but beware your life could change with the experience. Winter time, most volunteers are needed – so I shall be back (G-d willing) in February 2017.
Wishing everyone Shana Tova and year filled with Blessings and most of all ‘Peace’.