Tired of the same old vacation? Looking for an adventure? Want to see Israel in a different light? Consider joining Volunteers for Israel/Sar-El, an international non-profit organization whose mission is to connect people from around the world to Israel via hands-on work.
My adventures with VFI began seven years ago. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! After a long flight, I met up with other volunteers at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Pamela Lazarus, the Israel coordinator for VFI/Sar-El, immediately put us at ease.
Volunteers are usually assigned to military bases where there is a need for help. Over the years I have emptied warehouses, counted inventories, packed backpacks for reservists and packed essential medical supplies.
My most exciting time was three years ago, when I was sent to the Lebanon and Syrian borders. I was bussed daily from a base camp to different outposts, where I filled sandbags, painted buildings, and laid and adjusted camouflage. This part of Israel is beautiful; with rolling green hills and snow covered Mt. Hermon in the distance. I feel fortunate to have been there, just on the other side of the security fence. Now when I see the news, I know exactly what the IDF soldiers are experiencing when patrolling.
Sar-El volunteers come from around the world. It’s a privilege to meet such interesting people — some of whom have remained my friends for many years.
Volunteers wear army fatigues during the work week, and sleep in barracks, just like the soldiers. Meals are eaten in the kosher cafeterias, alongside the soldiers. It is a great opportunity to get to know these young Israeli men and women who are serving their country. They are always amazed and appreciative that we come from far away to support them. Weekends are free for volunteers to visit friends or family, or tour the country.
Being in Israel and physically helping others is incredibly rewarding. Supporting Israel in this way gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and allows me to spend time in one of the most beautiful and fascinating parts of the world. It is a truly memorable experience.
Valerie Carlone of Marblehead is an ambassador for Volunteers for Israel. To learn more about the organization, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817-213-7333.
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