Since the declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948, volunteers have flocked from other countries to play their part. Volunteering in Israel can be a meaningful way to explore and understand the country and its remarkable population.
The first fighter pilots who came to defend the nascent State of Israel in 1948 were volunteer pilots from the United States, who created the country’s air force. Volunteering on Kibbutz became a popular gap-year option for young people in the 1970s and 80s, who were fascinated by the freedom of communal living. Today, overseas volunteers are welcomed by many Israeli organizations, including the Army!
While seemingly a stable and wealthy country, Israel has multiple social problems resulting from its rapid absorption of millions of refugees from different countries, and because of its fragile security situation and crippling military budget. Israeli society, and particular its weakest members, are majorly depending on the support of the charity sector, which picks up the slack where government cannot afford to invest resources.
Sar-El is the National Project for Volunteers for Israel, which sends groups of overseas volunteers to work on Israel’s army bases. The work is hard and conditions are basic, but people find it incredibly rewarding and have a great time. During the week, volunteers generally work in IDF warehouses and stay on base, meeting and chatting with young and veteran soldiers. At the weekends there are opportunities for touring interesting locations around Israel.
Dental Volunteers for Israel is an international organization of dentists – Jewish and non-Jewish – who volunteer their time to treat Israel’s less fortunate citizens. DVI runs a free dental clinic providing state-of-the-art treatment, as well as oral health care and education. They help indigent children of all races and religions, and elderly Holocaust survivors who cannot afford private dental treatment. Dentists from all over the world volunteer to work for DVI during their vacation time in Israel. Nathan Shapiro of Shatour was one of the founders of DVI and is still involved in helping organize sightseeing tours for volunteer dentists.
Volunteer Israel places overseas volunteers with hostels and organizations that help adults and children with physical or intellectual disabilities. They help volunteers to secure special visas, which are important for anyone planning to spend an extended period of time in Israel, and they organize their accommodation near the organization where they will be volunteering.
There are many other opportunities for volunteering in Israel with children and youth-at-risk, teaching English for example, and with refugees and migrants and their families, who fall outside Israel’s social care system. Israel is a country that was built on charitable donations and an ideology of volunteering, so it is a great place to explore your altruistic side.
Many families who visit Israel to celebrate a landmark birthday or Bar or Bat Mitzvah choose to include a volunteering activity as part of their visit. Shatour is happy to help you with ideas and suggestions for meaningful volunteering programs to suit your age group and interests. Talk to Shatour about incorporating some volunteering time during your next visit to Israel.