At least once a year for over twelve years now, my parents have been volunteering with the Israeli Army, through the amazing programs run by the Sar El organization. If you add up all the army time they’ve done throughout the years, it would total about six months of service.
There are various ways in which folks can help our very special State of Israel. While making donations to UJA, JNF, and the like are always important and appreciated, there are special folks who want to do more, and in a more active rather than passive role. Sar El gives folks the opportunity to get their hands dirty in helping the State of Israel.
In Sar-El one has the opportunity to work side by side with Israeli soldiers in performing non-combat tasks, generally involving repair and maintenance of various types of gear and equipment. One is in an environment with other motivated volunteers from all over the world, both Jewish and Christian, who are brought together by the same ideals in their love of the State of Israel. [This is a way to express ] the shared desire to help through sweat and not just greenbacks (donations). So you can call me a second generation Sar El volunteer, trying to follow in the footsteps of my parents.
How did I get involved with this amazing program? I made aliyah at an age that the army considers too old for regular service. After 6 months of ulpan (Hebrew Courses) I began working three years ago for a local Jerusalem accounting firm called Don Shrensky & Co. preparing and filing US Income Tax Returns for Americans living in “exile” (here). With Americans living abroad having until June 15th instead of April 15th to file, our busy season is generally from March through the end of June. February is generally a quiet time of the year at the office. As I saw this slower time of year approaching, I asked my supervisors if they would mind if I took an army leave of absence to serve our country this time of year and they graciously approved.
I had been itching and searching for an opportunity to serve since coming, and thanks to the Sar El program thank Gd I finally had it. I see this as my opportunity to perform the miluim-like (reserve duty) that many Israelis do annually. I should add that this program for sure isn’t all work and no play. There are a fair amount of tea and coffee breaks mixed in to the work day. You will work hard but you don’t have to be in marine-like shape to perform the work that needs to be done.
The absolute cherry-on-the-cake with this program are the madrichot (Guides). Every Sar El group generally has a pair of young ladies who organize the volunteer program and the day-to-day operation of it. Aside from generally being fluent in English, very polite, and easy on the eyes, they run amazing evening activities that are very educational, interactive, and always entertaining. You will know a lot more about Israel at the end of the program, and you will know all the other volunteers as well, due to the efforts of the madrichot. So, if you’re looking to help the state of Israel in an active way, and you’re between the ages of 18 – 120, come on over. Your uniform is waiting for you.