A Pas­sion For Israel: Adven­tures of a Sar-el Volunteer

  • Review
By – September 10, 2020

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.

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