Volunteering instead of vacationing

I graduated from university on the 14th of July and straight away came to Israel the following day. My original purpose for being in Israel was a holiday with my friends, show them the sites, be in the sun and relax. However, before my trip things had already taken a turn, soldiers were preparing to be sent to Gaza, Hamas were firing rockets and sirens were going off throughout the country. Many of my British friends had begun cancelling their summer holidays in Israel but I was adamant I was coming. Israel is my home, I love it here, and I am not going to change my plans because of a few rockets.

Each day of my holiday I tried to do something small to help. However, once my friends had returned to the UK I felt I was more available to assist with something bigger. I originally contacted OneFamily because I knew about all the great work that they do and I wanted to see if they needed any volunteers, so I contacted them and arrived that day. At first the other volunteers were interested in why I’d spend my summer holiday volunteering when I could be on a beach sunbathing. I explained to them it’s simple – I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to help when help is needed and at times like these it is more crucial than ever that Jews from around the world are present, know what’s going on, and no matter where in the world they are – they help.

On my first day we went straight to Hadassa hospital in Jerusalem. The first soldier we met looked like a boy. He was so little and young, certainly not looking his age of 20. He had been shot in the lung, which seemed unbelievable as he was in such good form and smiling.  His mother was telling us how amazing the county has been to them. Strangers visiting, giving presents, sending thanks and get well soons. It is this support that shows soldiers and the families how important and appreciative Israel and Jews from around the world are of them. The majority of soldiers we visited had their army unit flag hanging on the walls of their ward, army ID badges hanging above their beds and Magen Davids around them.  Even after experiences as crazy and scary as they have been through, the soldiers do not question their love for their country, which was inspirational to witness. One man had lost an eye in a tank explosion, three men had been shot, two men in a house explosion. It was Incredible to hear their stories and be present to show them that Jews around the world support them too.

Meeting the families of the stories of the soldiers was also special.  Many of them were still in shock but were putting a brave face on for their sons, brothers, cousins, nephews, grandsons and friends. As soon as we saw them, the emotion was running through their eyes, like we were a long lost friend they had missed, needed and trusted. The families were eager to know who we were and where we all came from, and seemed most thankful for us visiting.

At first visiting the hospitals was nerve wracking as I don’t speak or understand much Hebrew I couldn’t talk or interact with the soldiers as much as it would have wanted. I found myself being introduced to the families by my country – as if I was a representative for all British Jews. I was concerned that this, along with saying Refuah shalema would not be enough, however, in many ways it was. It made the soldiers and their families’ smile, intrigued and happy to know that people around the world care.

The hospital visits were just one way that OneFamily demonstrates their support to victims of terror. They are such a special charity to volunteer for. The work they do is of most importance and you can see the effects of their actions immediately. Everyone who works or volunteers loves what they do and are constantly developing and trying to help any way they possibly can

Meeting the soldiers and their families was something extremely special that I’ll never forget it. The stories shared will always stay with me and I will be sure to come back and see how the soldiers and their families are doing in the future.

2 Comments

  1. Etana

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write about your experience as a volunteer. I’ve donated to OneFamily over the years and it was the organization we chose to have people contribute to in lieu of presents for our wedding. Your story personalized the work they do, from the perspective of a supporter. Thank you and yasher koach.

    September 3, 2014 Reply
  2. Zell Kravinsky

    Last December I took my wife and kids to visit our daughter, who was spending a “gap year” in Israel with Habonim Dror. This year I’d like to take my family to Israel to volunteer, not vacation. Can you suggest some options? Email addresses I could write to?

    Zell Kravinsky

    September 4, 2014 Reply

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