I’ve spent the last two weeks volunteering on an IDF (Israel Defense Force) military base. Yes, you heard correctly The Israeli Army! Let me tell you, all those days in the gym pumping iron and running laps has really paid off. My first week of sweat and tears was spent just outside of Tel Aviv at an undisclosed medical base. Along with 25 other volunteers we helped sort, check, reseal and pack various medical supplies that will be shipped all around Israel to different units as well as around the world for emergency aide situations. I know this work sounds exhilarating, but in all reality what we were doing is a vital piece of the army’s survival – or at least that’s what they made us believe. The base isn’t a “combat” base so there aren’t any tanks or guys running around with fatigues and guns, unfortunately. Most of the people on the base are non-commission workers, who were typically in the army many years ago, or other full-time volunteers. I spent my week working for a man named Efi and his soldier; Efi really put the pedal to the metal, I think we took café breaks at least every two hours and we had Hebrew lessons in between. Then there was the cutest old man named Israel. Israel has been a volunteer for the last twelve years, he is 78 and comes to help Efi three mornings a week. He not only served in 3 Israeli wars but he was also a POW for a total of seven years when he was in his yearly 20’s.
Considering the strenuous hours, laborious work and drill sergeants we managed to play cards, go for runs, buy snacks at the Shechem (little store) and get in some sun. In Tel Aviv the weather was beautiful; at least I thought it was seeing as it’s probably winter wallopping in New York. The volunteers range in age from 16 to 78, and there are people various countries including; Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Italy, USA and even a few ExPats from Israel. We were loaned an army uniform that was strictly enforced; pants, belts, shirts and warm jackets. Luckily the color green goes well with my complexion; otherwise 3-weeks in the fatigues might get kind of old. The accommodations are camp like, 4 ladies sharing a bunk bed style room with the bathroom across the courtyard. We all ate our meals together in buffet style; cucumbers, tomatoes and variations of white creamy sauce. I’m perplexed every day by the amount of cucumbers this country must either import of grow locally, they serve them like water! Since it was during Hanukkah we even had sufganiot (Jewish donuts filled with jelly) after every meal.
Typical Day Schedule:
- Wake up – 7:15
- Breakfast -7:30
- Work – 8:15 to 12:30 (lot’s of breaks in between)
- Lunch – 12:30 to 1:30
- Work – 1:30 to 4 (lot’s of breaks in between)
- Hang time – 4 to 5:30 (running, cards, naps)
- Dinner – 5:30 to 6:30
- Break – 6:30 to 7:00
- Activity – 7:00 to 8:00
- Free time – 8:00 to whenev’s