Sar-El Volunteers in the IDF

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.

With fellow volunteers

One of the neatest parts of the trip was meeting retired General Aharon
Davidi, the former head of the I.D.F. Paratroopers and Infantry Corps, and
the founder of Sar-El. He told us the story of the beginnings of the program.
In 1982, during the Galilee War, almost all the reservists in the Golan Heights
were called up, and were forced to abandon their farms. General Davidi organized
a corps of 650 American volunteers to harvest their ripened crops, basically
saving the entire region’s economic and agricultural production. Although
this effort was supposed to be a temporary program, the American volunteers
convinced General Davidi to continue the program, which is now in its twentieth
year. The work that the volunteers do is very significant. For instance, most
of the medical supplies for the whole army are packed by volunteers at the
Matzrap base!

Jews and non-Jews alike
all over the world are wondering, “What can we do to help?”. Sar-El is
the perfect answer to this question. Experience Israel from the inside, working
alongside the defenders of the country, and make a real difference. It’s
an unbeatable experience.

Josh Rosenbloom, 18, is
a college student in Boston.



For more information, click here, and and here.

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