I wanted to take this opportunity to share my experiences with the Sar-El Program. Participants in this program spend up to three weeks working on an army base in Israel. The mission of my particular communications base is to fix and distribute electronics and transmitting devices to the army. The base supplies devices to the troops in the southern part of the country.
The work that the volunteers do comprises 30% of [all work carried out on] devices that are shipped from this base. I am situated near Beer Sheva and after I daven shacharit in the base synagogue, the sun rises over Beer Sheva in the distance and the skyline is a golden color. It is a beautiful sight and a nice way to start the day.
My group of volunteers includes six men and six women. It is a very diverse group of people from all over the world, including the Czech Republic, Ireland, Brazil, Hungary, New Zealand and the United States. Although three people are not Jewish, they have a tremendous love for Israel and its people. We all look pretty cool in our army uniforms with Tzahal (Israel Defense Forces) written over our hearts. It is quite a thrill to be in uniform during the morning flag raising ceremony while we sing Hatikvah. I believe that our rank, as volunteers, is sub-private. For sure, no one has saluted us.
Most of the volunteers have been working with speakers that are installed in tanks, jeeps and other military vehicles. They need to be tested, disassembled and repaired. I have worked soldering new transformers, speakers, wires and connecting heads. After repairs, they are painted and a connector is attached for placement in the vehicles. Large numbers of these units are brought in from vehicles in the field and are waiting to be processed. We spend at least 6 hours a day at the job, mostly standing to do the work. I have never seen a more devoted group. Everyone is working incredibly hard because we feel that we are contributing something, albeit small, to the defense of Israel. By the way, some of the volunteers are also working on tank and artillery helmets and antennas.
Programs are organized for the volunteers during the evenings. We have learned about life in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) such as what color beret each of the forces wear, the symbols on the uniforms representing different ranks, and the ten principles of “Ruach Tzahal”, the spirit of the IDF. We recently saw a movie called “Above and Beyond,” a documentary about the Jewish veterans from World War II who volunteered to become Israel’s air force during the War of Independence. Then we went to the Air Force Museum to see the actual planes that they flew. It was a real thrill.
Being a volunteer in this program has been a great experience. We sleep in barracks and eat meals with the soldiers. Fighter jets and helicopters are constantly flying overhead. You can hear firing from the base ranges and sometimes the boom of artillery will shake the windows and walls of our rooms. Come on now, that is pretty cool. I do feel like we are truly making a contribution. This experience has given me a greater connection to Israel. I would certainly recommend the program for people of all ages (the age range in my group is from 21 to 73 years).