IT was during a trip to Israel last year to volunteer for manual labour on a military base – organised by Sar-el – that Tammy Graeve heard about a vacancy in the organisation’s Australian office.
After returning home to Melbourne in May she made some enquiries and last November became an Australian ambassador for the organisation, sharing the role with Rabbi Pesach Steinberg.
“Sar-el is a heartfelt program which allows people to help Israel in a meaningful way, giving back more than money,” said Graeve.
Since Sar-el was established in 1983 it has had more than 160,000 volunteers from the Diaspora. In the past decade this total has included more than 60 people a year from Australia.
Graeve spent two weeks volunteering on a medical supply base near Tel Aviv. Leaving her family at home and travelling solo, she joined about 30 volunteers from countries including Britain, America, Canada and South Africa.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to make memories and friendships that last a lifetime,” she said.
“There’s no vigorous army training and no physical fitness is required, but it is not a five-star experience. Your day starts at 6am and each morning the Israeli flag was raised and everyone sang the Hatikvah.
“It was such a special and empowering moment to be standing in army fatigues, singing together. I forgot about the lack of amenities and focused on the sense of fulfilment and gratitude of donating our time and effort to Israel.
“All of us volunteers keep in touch on Facebook and talk about a reunion in a year or two when we can all meet in Israel.”
On the base the volunteers were responsible for sorting and packing medical products for Israeli soldiers.
“It was an easy task but we were reminded of the seriousness of our job. Imagine a soldier working, and desperately needing a syringe or gloves, reaches into his backpack and finds it missing,” she explained.
“We made sure the packs were all packed correctly. They needed to be checked and rechecked as there was no room for error.”
For more information, visit www.sarelaustralia.com.