Eating Yoghurt With A Fork {Sar-El šŸ‡®šŸ‡± Day #1}

Eating Yoghurt With A Fork {Sar-El šŸ‡®šŸ‡± Day #1} | Sunday 10th July 2016 |

For the past three weeks I have embarked on an incredible journey  of self-discovery in Israel with Genesis. I learned so much about my Jewish identity, befriended some of the loveliest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met, and connected to my homeland more than ever before. Unfortunately, this part of my 6 week trip to Israel has come to and end, but as the word “Genesis” suggests, this is only the beginning of my story. 

At home, I have recently felt ignorant about Israel and disconnected from life there. As I have not “made aliyah” (moved to Israel) I am in no way obliged to complete the compulsory army service that all young citizens there do after leaving school. I know that I am not strong enough (physically and mentally) to ever join the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) so I decided to volunteer for the IDF instead. 

For the next three weeks I will be situated on a base, doing tasks that would take soldiers 3 months to complete between work shifts. I am really happy to be here and even though I know it will be tough (and very hot), I am determined to stay positive and make a difference. Nobody told me to do this programme- the desire to help is just an instinct. 

Today we arrived at the base so there is not much to report, but I am hoping to write a daily blog to share my experiences as I go along. (There is no wifi here so posting is going to be irregular.)

This morning I took a “sherut” (shared mini bus/taxi) from my host family in Jerusalem to the airport. I was immediately faced with about 200 French tweens and I was told that I would be the only English speaking volunteer on the programme. I was absolutely terrified! Sure, I remember a little French from school, but not enough to survive 3 weeks with these kids. I kept trying to ask the “madrichim” (leaders) where I needed to go and kept being redirected to the wrong people. 

Anyway, when I finally found the right group (separate to the French kids’ Sar-El programme), I was still nervous to meet a whole new group of people, but I was so relieved that the chaos was over! An American organiser checked us in and introduced our “madricha” (leader), and after everyone finally arrived, we set off for the base. 

We are a small group: 9 girls and 6 boys, with an age range of 17 to 26. Everyone is friendly and I already feel relatively comfortable in this new situation. What’s amazing is that the group is about half Jewish and half Christian, and yet everyone is passionate about Israel. Plus, the variety of backgrounds is quite exciting: we are from England, Canada, America, Hungary, France, Australia and the Faro Islands (also, our madricha is originally from Russia). 

This evening, we received our uniforms and some Sar-El merch, ate dinner, had a tour of the area and for our “activity”, our madricha told us the rules of the base, our daily routine and the history of Sar-El (it was set up after the war with Lebanon in 1982 when people working in agriculture wanted to volunteer more directly for the army to help out). We also learned how to wear our uniform correctly. Fun fact: we have to leave our top buttons open because apparently when doctors check people after fighting, they close the top buttons of the injured or dead. If we walk around with our top buttons closed, people might think we are about to commit suicide (no joke).

The accommodation is not bad at all. We have air-con (yay!), plenty of space in our dorms, and the bathroom is great (honestly, compared to the yeshiva I just stayed in, I have no complaints). The base is HUGE and nothing like what I expected. (I probably can’t be too descriptive for security reasons…) Also, the food was quite good. They don’t have knives or spoons, so eating chocolate yoghurt with a fork was interesting… but I guess it’s all part of the experience! 

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