In this lively memoir, Mark Werner, the son of a Holocaust survivor, shares his experiences serving as a Sar-El volunteer in Israel. Sar-El, an acronym for the Hebrew Sherut L’Yisrael (Service to Israel), was founded in 1983 after the First Lebanon War by retired Israeli general Aharon Davidi. To date, Sar-El has had over 150,000 volunteers from thirty-five different countries who pay their own transportation costs to work as civilian (non-combat) volunteers on an Israeli military base. Their work, which includes packing kit bags and medical supplies, helps the IDF soldiers carry out their military duties.
The chapters, named for each base on which Werner has worked, unfold with a brief summary of what was happening at that moment in Israel, including developments with the country’s enemies, UN actions, and discussions with the United States government on Israel’s safety and security. Werner has family in Israel, whom he visits in between his weeks on the IDF bases, and he describes how his relatives deal with the cycles of terror Israelis live through.
Having served several stints in Sar-El for two or three weeks at a time over many years, the author illustrates well what life is like for IDF soldiers, including such diverse conscripts and volunteers as Druze, Bedouin, and Lone Soldiers from all over the world. Although at times the author includes a little too much minutiae of his daily work at the army bases, the reader learns about the many tasks that the volunteers do.
A Passion for Israel is a heartfelt journal that transports the reader to an Israeli military base as a non-combat volunteer. It should interest those who wonder what volunteering for the IDF is like — including the gratitude the soldiers feel toward the people who come from around the world to support Israel and her citizens.
Sue is an active volunteer in Jewish life in Scottsdale, AZ. She has participated in the Sar-El program many times. She is currently the AIPAC Phoenix Council Chair, Phoenix Political Chair, Board member of the Phoenix Jewish Community Relations Council and the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival.