A Week To Remember

Since I first read about Sar-El in a magazine of the German-Israeli society (Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft) I have felt an increasing desire to participate in this program.

This increasing desire was caused by the ongoing unfairness in the media coverage as well as in the public opinion when it comes towards Israel. There are so many people that don’t see the need to learn more about history in order to actually understand the conflict between Israel and its enemies, but that are still very certain that Israel is always the aggressor. They either ignore all the rockets fired towards Israel or call them toy rockets like they couldn’t harm anybody; but as soon as Israel reacts towards these rockets in order to protect its citizens (as any state in the world is supposed to) they go out on the street to protest against Israel. When in the neighboring Syria however tens of thousands of Arabs are slaughtered by their own government or by terrorist groups, they seem not to care about.

When I think of Israel I think of a refuge for people who have been threatened and persecuted throughout history and all over the world and who had the understandable desire of a home of their own where they could feel safe.

I think of the only free and democratic state in a violent and oppressive region that does its best to protect its minorities. That gave full citizenship to the Arabs that remained within its borders and Israel has offered peace so often to its enemies despite the war and terror that has been going on against it since its foundation.

I think of a state that is so innovative in science and high-tech and eager to share this with the world.

Israel is also in its moral principles on a far higher ground than its neighbors. Which other army in the Middle East would even think about warning civilians close by before an attack on military sites? Would the Syrian army accept to treat wounded Israelis that are brought to the Syrian border as the Israeli army does with Syrian civilians wounded in the civil war? And to mention just another example: In Israel gays can marry and adopt children. What happens to them in Iran, Saudi-Arabia, Egypt etc. if their sexual orientation comes out?

For all that it really meant far more to me than just a wish to help Israel and its people. It was a moral duty to me to do the little I can to help Israel and therefore to make the world a little better.

The program itself was very well organized. The Sar-El contact in Germany, Alex Pikovsky, told me everything I needed to know.When I arrived at Ben-Gurion airport and met the other volunteers I instantly felt this spirit of motivation and enthusiasm.

I was sent with ten other volunteers to a base near Beer Sheva, ‘the capital of the Negev’.  We were a very diverse group with interesting people of very different background from all around the world: Germany, the United States, Norway, Estonia, Hungary and the Netherlands.

The first day we were shown around the base and to our barracks. We also got our uniforms – a moment I really anticipated. On the second day we were assigned to our jobs. Since it was a logistics base, we worked in or around warehouses, recycling old material respectively checking, packing and storing recently arrived stuff.

In the mornings we assembled together with the soldiers for flag raising and each morning one of us volunteers got the opportunity to raise the flag. The hours working together passed really fast. We worked side by side with young soldiers that did their military service. What we had to get used to was the singing of some of the soldiers during work J

Our Madrichot were great and took good care of us during our stay. Ellen already had several Sar-El groups before and was supervising Karin and Shawna who had their very first group. I’d like to thank them very much, because they did a really good job organizing our schedules and work assignments and were always smiling and ready to help us. In the evenings we always had a cultural program where we learnt more about the Israeli army and culture and also about the Hebrew alphabet.

Unfortunately I only had time to do the one week program. So I had to say good bye after a few great days on the base. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I am absolutely willing to repeat this and contribute once more for the future of this great nation of Israel. 

By Ralf S.

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