A loud cheer erupts from a group of Sar-El volunteers having lunch outdoors at an Aroma Café on their last Sunday before returning home. Looking confused, other nearby patrons ask, “What are you yelling about?”
A series of large Volvo trucks and flatbeds carrying tanks had just passed by. “They could have been the ones we labored over on our transportation base in the South,” we explain. A hearty “Kol HaKavod,” is the response.
The 15 members of our April, 2019 VFI PLUS
ADVANCED group spent two weeks painting those trailers and hauling heavy chains and other equipment from those trucks and flatbeds so that the materials could be checked, sorted and repackaged for the next transport. In addition, we cleaned warehouses and sorted heavy equipment used by military police as well as oiling guns and cleaning the kitchen, barracks and bathrooms. We also conducted English Conversation Groups for soldiers selected by the base commander; we were only the second group of volunteers to offer this program.
By that last Sunday, we were proudly exhausted and so excited to see “our” work in action! But we had fun too. Our three welcoming and creative madrichot—Nessia, Pauline and Nomi presented evening programs that were informative and enjoyable. We practiced our Hebrew and challenged our knowledge of Israeli history. We heard from a wonderful speaker who told us about her life before, during and after her military service and answered our many questions. One evening Pauline taught us Israeli dances in the open air and even our supervisor joined in!
We were invited to the base Fun Day during which we visited the Children’s Museum in Holon, had a picnic style lunch and went bowling! Members of our group played Mah Jongg with a hand-made set created from Styrofoam cups by one of the volunteers.
Another volunteer taught us—and the soldiers—card tricks. One evening our VFI liaison gave us a lesson on the Machal—the original volunteers from outside the Land who supported Israel in its War of Independence. Sar-El also arranged a special trip to Beit HaShanti, a home for young people who have been living on the streets.
What was the VFI PLUS ADVANCED in our experience?
It was the extensive touring we did on the weekends before, between and after our service on the base. Led by our guide extraordinaire, the unflappable Julia Newman, we journeyed to off –the–beaten–path sites in Haifa, Akko, Jerusalem, the Judean Desert, and the Negev. We traveled in an air- conditioned, WIFI enabled bus and stayed in fabulous hotels with extensive meal selections. All of these perks for one all-inclusive affordable price!
Except for one, all of us had been to Israel before— some as many as 7-10 times—yet we all felt we were seeing something new or through new eyes.
There were bumps (and bruises) along the way, but our keyword for this trip was always, “Gemishoot.” גמיש— flexible! We learned that by being flexible, being patient, and having a sense of humor, we were guaranteed the adventure of a lifetime. Without exception, we would all highly recommend the VFI PLUS ADVANCED program to anyone who wants to experience the “real” Israel. You will give and you will surely get even more.
– Beverly Cohen April 2019