From Bill Sutter’s Desk Sep/Oct 2004
“Israel Has Your Heart. Now Is the Time to Lend Your Hands.”
Thus reads the headline on the brochure from Volunteers for Israel (VFI). Since VFI’s inception in 1982, more than a hundred thousand people from thirty countries have volunteered their time and energy to immerse themselves in Israeli life. They work alongside soldiers through handson, civilian volunteer work. The majority of the volunteers are Jewish Americans. However, in recent years an increasing number of Bible-believing Christians have joined the program. In addition to their important commitment to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps. 122:6), these Christians have taken action to support Israel by helping meet essential manpower needs.
Known in Israel as Sar-El, the program was conceived in 1982 as a way to help relieve a critical manpower shortage. Israeli General Aharon Davidi sent emissaries to the United States to enlist volunteers to help harvest crops in the Galilee and keep the economy going while workers were away serving in the army. General Davidi’s experiment was such a rousing success that it continued and expanded. Today volunteer programs are conducted throughout the year.
Most participants work alongside Israelis for two or three weeks doing noncombat, civilian work on an army base. Others give a full month to helping at a hospital.
The benefits to Israel are abundant. The program boosts:
- Economics—Volunteers serving on VFI army bases enable Israeli reservists to stay on their jobs. Israel saves millions of dollars yearly in the value of the work performed by the volunteers.
- Morale—The morale of Israeli soldiers climbs as they see volunteers who are hardworking and committed, giving not only of their money but of themselves.
- Solidarity—The program is a celebration of unity. Volunteers come from many locations, vocations, and backgrounds, all to demonstrate solidarity with Israel.
- Support—By working side by side with Israelis, volunteers see, understand, and appreciate Israel’s people and culture. They return home as enthusiastic ambassadors of the Jewish state. Earlier this year, three participants in our fall 2003 Friends of Israel Up to Jerusalem tour returned to Israel as workers under the Volunteers for Israel program. They were assigned to an army base near Tel Aviv. It was Dr. Wesley Walker’s seventh volunteer trip to Israel since 2000. As a physician, he was well suited for his work there with medical supplies. Said Dr. Walker, “My heart is in Israel, where I feel so much at home. I have a God-given love for the Jewish people, and this is my way of helping.”
Sherry Vance was a first-time participant. She performed a wide range of duties in the kitchen where three hundred to four hundred military personnel were served each mealtime. Sherry testified, “At each morning flag-raising, I felt the pride of wearing the uniform and being in Israel to help. I experienced a tremendous bond with the soldiers and have established lasting friendships with several who now call me ‘mother.’”
It was also Mary Morgan’s first volunteer experience in Israel. She worked with a team of six people who were sorting and packaging medicines for the troops in the field. Mary explained, “My service in Israel was the greatest experience I could ever imagine. I wanted to help Israel in any way I could. It was so special to be able to serve with the men and women in the Israeli military.”
You may join a Volunteers for Israel group any Sunday or Monday during the year except for blackout periods over Jewish holidays. Room and board are provided during the program. Participants are responsible for airfare and the expenses of activities when they are on their own on the weekends.
If you would like to consider serving as a Volunteer for Israel, please contact Jeanne S. Schachter at VFI toll free at 888-473-6527; or fax her at 215-473-4473. Applications are also available on the Volunteers for Israel Web site at www.vfi-usa.org.