|Josh surrounded by
the Israeli madrichot [counselors]
Baking in the hot summer sun. Sweating buckets
while hauling boxes, fire extinguishers, ketchups, air conditioners, bullets.
Wearing an authentic military uniform. Packing medical supplies. Cleaning
tanks. Relaxing after a hard day’s work. An evening lecture or excursion.
Meeting and talking with young Israeli soldiers. Eating army “cuisine.”
Sound enticing? Then you belong on the next flight to Israel, to volunteer
with the Sar-El program.
The Sar-El program
brings volunteers from all over the world to Israeli army bases and hospitals.
On the bases, volunteers work in kitchens, laundries, warehouses, gardens,
or armories, performing simple but vital tasks. Volunteers live for three
weeks on the base, in spare but comfortable accommodations and are provided
with meals and uniforms.
I recently returned
from my first trip with Sar-El, and I’ll be going back as soon as possible!
I worked and lived on the Matzrap section of Tel Hashomer, a large army base
near Tel Aviv. Three nineteen-year-old soldiers served as madrichot, or counselors,
and made sure that we worked hard and were well taken care of. I worked in
the warehouses, under the supervision of a career soldier named Ruti, who
spoke not a word of English! Although the madrichot volunteered to translate
her frequent and ever-changing instructions, between my pidgin Hebrew and
her sign language, we got along fine. In fact, I was appointed as translator
for all three volunteers under Ruti’s charge! My work partner was a sixty-one
year old Evangelical Christian from New Zealand, which was not a particularly
uncommon pairing since at least a quarter of the fifty-odd volunteers during
my stint were non-Jews. We also hailed from all over the world. There were
Americans, South Africans, New Zealanders, Canadians, a Botswanan, a Belgian,
and an Italian. And don’t think that you are too old to go on the program;
our oldest volunteer was 79! The only thing that united us all was an intense
love of Israel and a desire to help in anyway we could.