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Friday, March 16, 2012

Eye Out for Israel: Volunteer Opportunities

by Bradly Baird (bio)

The other night - in a very nonchalant fashion - I suggested to my wife that I want to vist Israel once a year and work as a volunteer on non-combative Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bases. Her immediate response to this casual conversation starter fell on the negative response spectrum somewhere between "over my dead body" and "snowball's chance in ----." She spoke so decisively and with such force that I decided to wait for a better moment in which to pursue the discussion. Secretly, however, I am glad she did not give me a chance to speak because I am incapable of expressing a well-reasoned argument for wanting to go, except that it seems interesting.

The opportunity to work on Israeli military bases is made available through two non-profit organizations: Israel-based Sar-El and United States-based Volunteers For Israel (VFI). Sar-El started in 1982 as a response to the first war in Lebanon. Israel faced a shortage of the labor required to drive its economy. In response to this challenge, General Aharon Davidi sent emissaries to the United States and other countries who enlisted volunteers to harvest crops and complete other tasks in place of thousands of Israelis who were then needed to serve in the army. The program found immediate success and provided thousands of volunteers to help with different needs. Today, the program supplies volunteers to serve on military bases, supporting IDF troops through food service, maintenance, and other necessities.

From the VFI Handbook:
Volunteers perform various civilian, non-combat duties on military bases that would otherwise have to be done by overburdened Israelis. Meeting and working closely with Israelis on the job puts you directly in touch with the culture, lifestyle, and pulse of this vibrant country, while providing essential physical and moral support.

On a military base, work may include but not be limited to the following:
• quartermaster/supply work e.g., filling and emptying duffel bags, organizing warehouse supplies, taking inventory, packing medical and other supplies;
• base maintenance, e.g., painting, repairs, gardening;
• maintenance and equipment repair, e.g., truck, tank and parts inspection, replacement and repackaging;
• kitchen work, e.g., food preparation, serving, cleaning;
• construction, e.g., building bunkers, erecting fences.

If you want more information about the opportunities, please visit Sar-El or Volunteers For Israel.

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