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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sar El’

My Week with the Israel Defense Forces

Monday, May 14th, 2012

To all of my friends and relatives who sent me their good wishes upon hearing that I volunteered for a one week tour of the army, I am now sending a little summary of what this was all about.

Sar-EL, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel, stations volunteers on IDF bases across the country. We work in army uniforms and perform non-combat support duties, working alongside regular soldiers, helping Israel shoulder its defensive burdens.

I was introduced to the program through an email from Nefesh B’Nefesh. It’s geared to new olim of all ages to have the opportunity to assist the IDF and give something back to them for all that they do for us. It sounded very exciting to me so after discussing it with Libby (after all, I’ll be away for almost a week) and receiving her support, I immediately signed up for a week, starting Sunday May 6th.

First, I had to send in a completed medical report from my doctor confirming that I was physically and mentally fit  to do the necessary work, together with my ID for the army to check out in advance. B’H- no problems there.

Sunday morning, May 6th I headed for Ben Gurion airport where I was to meet the entire group for that week. There were about 100 volunteers gathered. After presenting our papers we were assigned to specific army bases in groups varying between 12-20 in any given group. I, together with 16 others, was assigned to a base in the Negev, somewhere near Be’er Sheva. We were asked not to disclose the exact location or the name of the base. 17 of us, 11 men and 6 women boarded a bus taking us to our base. Also with us was one regular soldier (Sharon), who was to be our Madricha for the entire week. She was 19 years old while we ranged from age 40 to 86. She spoke English (somewhat) and was trained by the army to lead groups of Sar-EL such as ours.

We got to the base around 1pm and after room assignments we went to the dining room for a sumptuous fleishige lunch. After lunch we were ushered to uniform supplies. Without a tape measure the soldier in charge just looked at each of us and said “this is a perfect size for you,” and handed us our army pants, shirt (with TZAHAL insignia) and belt. Believe it or not – mine fit. Others, who were very tall and broad, could not fit into the given shirts- but the army ran out of larger sizes. So they were just given t-shirts.

We were then given 30 minutes to unpack and straighten our beds. The men’s barracks had 3 to a room; the women had 2 to a room.

Lo and behold, to our surprise the rooms were air-conditioned, and the next building which had the bathroom and showers had 4 toilets (3 in working condition) and 3 shower stalls with hot running water. For those volunteers who have done this several times this was a very pleasant surprise – because in previous bases they did not have such luxury.

3;30 – We were marched to work stations- huge warehouses and asked to remove filled duffle bags from the bins, dust the bags and shelves, and restore them in the exact location from where they were removed. We worked for 1 hour.

4:30 – Back to our rooms for shower and relaxation.

6:30 pm – Dinner. Not as fulfilling as lunch, they served (always buffet-style) lots of salads, vegetables, and something that looked like green omelets. Nothing hot to drink but plenty of ice-water on tables.

7:30 pm – Evening activity. Our group met in one large room to get to know each other. Each spoke about himself/herself, and why they enlisted for a week.

It turned out that: we had a husband and wife team, a mother and daughter team, 3 of us came from Israel and all others from chu’l; one from Italy, one from Ireland, 3 from England, and the rest from USA. 3 were not even Jewish, and only 3 of us were Shomrei Shabbat. I was amazed to hear their motives for coming. They had to leave their family, jobs, and pay full flight to get here. They were not wealthy but they put together a year of savings in order to come. Their motive? They loved Israel, and the Jewish people. Most of them had done this before and for one it was the 10th time. It gave me goose-pimples hearing them describe their love and devotion to Israel. It also gave me chizuk and inspiration.

We were informed that this army base is the largest supply base for the entire southern region, including Aza. If war were to break out in Aza the Givati and other infantry units would be sent here to pick up their guns, ammunition and supplies. It is considered a very important base and is therefore protected by the Iron Dome Missile system.

Gloria Schreiber: Working Below The Radar

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

As the members of the I.D.F. lined up for the daily flag raising ceremony held on the Tel Hashomer Army Base outside of Tel Aviv, Gloria Schreiber approached the flagpole with a mixture of pride and awe. Standing at attention, dressed in fatigues, she grasped the rope, pulled gently and watched the white and blue flag slowly ascend.

She has watched the sun rise over the Gobi desert in Mongolia and has seen it set in the jungles of Nairobi, Kenya. She has climbed the Great Wall of China and journeyed from Antarctica to Australia, Hawaii to Nepal. But none of the extraordinary sights and sounds she has experienced during her 80-plus years can compete with the thrill of raising the flag of Israel as a volunteer for Sar-El.

Sar-El is the Hebrew acronym for Sheirut Le’Yisrael, meaning “Service to Israel.”

Gloria and Dr. Aharon Davidi, founder and leader of Sar-El.

Dr. Aharon Davidi, the former head of the IDF Paratroopers and Infantry Corps is the visionary who founded Sar-El almost 30 years ago during the outbreak of the 1982 Galilee War. He had been directing the Golan Heights community and cultural activities when the majority of able-bodied men were called up for army reserve duty.

Fearing that the settlements would lose their entire agricultural crop due to the severe manpower shortage Dr. Davidi sent a recruitment team to the United States. The 650 volunteers who answered the call to work in the fields were the forerunners of Sar-El, a non-profit, non-political organization which has attracted over 100,000 volunteers from over 30 countries world-wide, volunteers like Gloria Schreiber.

Her first tour of duty took place in 1986 when she accompanied her husband, Lee, a WW II veteran, to a base outside of Beersheva. Although she shared his love of Israel and travel, Gloria confesses she was “scared to death.” But the experience was so life affirming she has returned five more times, the most recent in 2009 when she provided logistical support for the IDF, packing medical supplies for soldiers.

For three memorable weeks she lived on the base, ate in the mess hall and got to know and appreciate Israel and its people on a deeply personal level. “Jews and non-Jews join Sar-El eager to offer help and show their support for Israel,” Gloria points out. “After my husband passed away I returned several times on my own and made friends with other volunteers who have become close friends for life.”

It was during a recent trip that she experienced what she describes as the ultimate example of Jewish geography. Gloria was working alongside a volunteer from Florida who casually asked where she was from. “I live on Long Island but my family is from Mahanoy, a small town in Pennsylvania that nobody ever heard of.”

In one of those mystical twists of fate that seem Heavenly ordained, her fellow volunteer responded that not only had he heard of the town but he knew exactly where it was located because his mother grew up there. Further discussions revealed that his mother and Gloria’s mother, who passed away last year at age 105, “were best friends a hundred years ago,” Gloria marvels.

Gloria and Sar-El volunteers packing supplies.

She viewed this as more than just a peculiar coincidence when you consider that there were only 35 Jewish families, out of a population of about 14,000, in this sleepy little mining town located in the heart of south central Pennsylvania’s coal country.

How big is Mahanoy? “When the front of the greyhound bus got out of town, the back of the bus got in,” Gloria jokes.

Her maternal grandparents, Esther and William Fried, originally from Grudna, Poland, settled in Mahanoy in 1905 where their relatives had already established a business. They joined the other Jewish shopkeepers along Main Street and opened Sydell’s dress shop catering to women and children.

“My grandparents were in business for 50 years and grandmother continued to run the store even after my grandfather passed away.” Gloria admired and adored her remarkable grandmother whose many skills included the ability to daven.

“They kept kosher and Shabbos and even went to the mikvah which was over a hundred miles away. As you can imagine it wasn’t easy to keep all those mitzvos a hundred years ago.” Gloria is convinced that because they were steadfast in their observance they merited having great-great-grandchildren who are Torah observant.

How did her parents meet? Gloria delights in sharing the scenario of their fateful encounter. Ahron Weinberg, an enterprising watch salesman from New York, was en route to a more profitable cosmopolitan city when he decided to get off the train when it pulled into Mahanoy to see if he could drum up “some parnassa.” His first stop, Rubin’s Jewelry store. Ahron sold Rubin some watches and Rubin sold him a ticket to the annual B’nai Brith Dance that attracted young singles from surrounding townships. Since the next train out of Mahanoy wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the next day, Ahron decided to spend the evening at the dance where he ultimately met his bashert, Gloria’s mother, Gittel.

Title: Army Fatigues

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Title: Army Fatigues


Author: Mark Werner


Publisher: Devora Publishing


 


 


 


Mark Werner’s engaging text about serving in Israel’s international volunteer military brigade Sar-El (a.k.a. Sherut LeYisrael) is a fun read. Werner clues readers into Israeli slang, military terminology and the stuff of daily life while portraying his work on military bases with “you are there” dynamism in his prose. Werner’s visits to friends and family plus his scenic outings are equally as vivid.

 

Here’s a look at some of the action in the memoir that readers will probably enjoy: Lifting metal rods to make order of mismanaged hangars, hacking at flammable undergrowth in order to minimize danger to buildings that house combustible munitions, and admirably coping with other hard labor under primitive conditions.

 

Finessing personality quirks among military commanders and non-military acquaintances is also part of the fun while the author and his Sar-El colleagues relieve active-duty soldiers from scut work. You’ll feel as if you’re alongside the author throughout his well-reported tale.

 

Educational, entertaining reading, Army Fatigues has one glaring fault. Despite the compassionate hard work that the author invests into his volunteerism, Werner’s insights into the political realities of Israel are discolored by his incomplete knowledge of why a Holy Land exists in the first place.

 

Gush Katif was not destroyed for altruistic reasons. Arabs do not kill unarmed civilians and everyone else in their crosshairs because they need employment skills or because the Oslo Accords failed. The lines of decency crossed in Israeli society are derelictions of Jewish duty, not charming likenesses of other societies and locales.

 

        And Israelis have not been well served by political “leaders.” The evidence lies in many graves.

 

Non-observant of halachah, uneducated about the G‑dly mandate to live in the Holy Land, Werner relies on moral relativism and personal opinion rather awareness of the Jewish destiny. Altruism, the Holocaust, the lie foisted upon the world as Palestinian peoplehood and poorly informed personal opinion (see the Introduction, page 131, and numerous remarks throughout the text respectively) serve as Werner’s rationales for his attachment to Israel and his sense of how Israeli life should proceed.

 

Werner and other Sar-El volunteers are good guys helping overworked, demoralized soldiers while saving Israel’s government lots of money. But the author needs clarity about fundamental facts on the ground.

 

We’re not Jewish or focused on Israel because of the Holocaust even if a deceased father such as Werner’s was one of its Jewish heroes. The Jews-to-Israel relationship dates back thousands of years: Jews are commanded to be here. Failure to comply is not an option. Parshat Shlach proves the consequences of failing to absorb that Zionist reality. We’re still paying the price for that mistake. Army Fatigues illustrates the enduring nature of misplaced Jewish loyalties.

 

The land is very, very good. Forgive the name-dropping, but G‑d said so through Calev and Yehoshua. End of story.


 


Yocheved Golani is the author of highly acclaimed It’s MY Crisis! And I’ll Cry If I Need To: A Life Book for Helping You to Dry Your Tears and Cope with a Medical Challenge (Booklocker Publishing).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-army-fatigues/2008/07/02/

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