Sar-El trip number seven! We are in the Upper Galilee at the southern approach to the Golan Heights. We are becoming expert at organizing work in IDF warehouses!
I think our group is starting to get a reputation; we can finish a week’s worth of work in two days—IDF: be prepared to keep us busy! I can operate a pallet jack like a professional and move tons of equipment in minutes! After forty years of sitting behind a desk, I am questioning my career choices. We are the “other October group” composed of Americans, Canadians, Germans, and Swiss who proudly wear the new Rust-colored beret. Our “sister group” is the group of Canadians who also come every October to pack medical supplies. This year Pam Lazarus, our coordinator and leader, had 29 groups of volunteers in October we were told.
Some of us at our base have been assigned to the kitchen—it did not improve the cuisine. Some of us have been assigned to trimming vegetation—the camp remained a dreary Army post. Some of us have been assigned to painting yellow lines in the warehouse parking and storage areas—we cannot reveal our secret of painting miraculously straight lines!
The camp commander, Nir, had us in to his office early during the first week. He welcomed us warmly and had fruit and soft drinks on his conference table for us. He went around the table to learn about each one of us. He insisted that we report any problems to him immediately. He looked at me and said: “When I [look at you], I see my father. I want my soldiers to treat you like they should treat my father.” Did I mention that he is six years younger than my son?
One stark fact which the commander did drive home to us was that this base would become the key hub of logistics support in the North should a war at Israel’s northern border ever occur again. Base staffing would increase ten-fold with an infusion of milu’im (reservists); it made us acutely aware of the importance of the work we were doing!
Groundhogs and hyenas complimented the natural environment at the base. The groundhogs were responsible for endless tunnel entrances (and tripping hazards) spread all over, and the hyenas provided an eerie baying sound mostly around sundown. We spent our evenings showing each other pictures of our children and grandchildren and comparing our medical conditions—what a great group! On the weekends we were exhausted but that did not stop us from walking the entire length of the “Tayelet” in Tel Aviv all the way down to the port of Jaffa and back. Israel is amazing! We had dinners together at great neighborhood restaurants and shopped at the Carmel market together.
Every year I understand more about Israel and its unique dynamics. While we were at our base in the North, a Hamas rocket from Gaza destroyed a house in Be’er Sheva in the Negev. A young mother got her three children safely to a shelter when she heard the sirens at 4 o’clock in the morning just moments before her home was destroyed.
Israel later retaliated by destroying twenty targets in Gaza. Life in Eretz Israel is all the more precious for its precarious nature; but that is their “normal”. If we can make a difference through Sar-El by showing this young generation of soldiers in the IDF that we care about them and love them, and that they are not alone in the world, then our annual volunteering is worthwhile.
I urge those of you who are contemplating a volunteer stint to take that step. Get on the plane; resign yourself to some challenging conditions for your body, but some elevating experiences for your soul. You won’t be sorry!
Thank you again, Sar-El, for giving us the opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah of Tikun Olam!
See you Ba’shanah ha’ba’ah (next year).