This Israeli Arab said the best decision his great-grandfather ever made…

After two and a half days of rest, I was ready to report for my second week with Sar-El. I texted for a Gett and even though it was the day of Christmas Eve, within three minutes my taxi arrived to take me back to Ben Gurion. The driver asked where I was from and he was very happy to know that I had come all the way from California to help Israel. This Israeli Arab said the best decision his great-grandfather ever made was in 1948 when he resisted the pressure from local Arab leaders to leave Yafo and become a refugee. He wished me well and asked that I let others know that Israel is the best country for him, not perfect, but a good life for him, his wife and children. He said that the schools are better than in Gaza and when his wife was sick, he took her to an Israeli hospital and she received the best care from the best doctor that anyone could possibly have. He hoped his children would become doctors in Israel, but they were still young and he didn’t know what to expect from his children yet. 

At Ben Gurion, I said my good-bye to Mohammed the taxi drive and went into the Sar-El reporting area. Again, a long line, but this time filled with some people that I had worked with on the base the previous week and with whom hugs were exchanged, others who had reported the previous week but I didn’t know them because they had been assigned to different bases and still others who were just arriving for their first week of volunteer service. 

I was re-assigned to the same medical supply base as last week. After all the volunteers were processed, we boarded our bus for the short ride to where we would go through the same procedure to acclimate to the base. In the barracks this time the women were on the first floor, which I was happy about because I didn’t have to shlepp my suitcase up 15 steps. But the downside of being on the first floor was that the bathroom and showers were far down the hall and I had to exit my side of the corridor, cross the entryway where some people would leave the entry door open and on the return from taking a shower it was often drafty and cold. Such is life. Small sacrifice of not having my towel warmer readily available.

I was very fortunate that Nina as my roommate for the week. She was as wonderful as Joy, my roommate during my first week (for the second week, Joy had been reassigned to a different base).  Nina was doing Sar-El with her husband Pat and this was their seventh week of service. The dedication of Sar-El volunteers to Israel always amazes me. Nina was not Jewish, but she loved Israel, Jewish culture and everything that goes along with Judaism: Shabbat, the holidays, the history of the Jewish people, the Old Testament, and our values toward life and how we are instructed to live life with the moral code presented in the Ten Commandments. During my previous Sar-El experiences, typically half my unit would be non-Jewish, so I was not surprised that this time there were also some non-Jewish volunteers. In the past, I served with a woman from the Netherlands who owned a reindeer farm and she and her husband produced Christmas pageants, another time a non-Jewish volunteer was from Canada and she was descended from runaway slaves, then there was a fellow who worked construction in Italy, one time we had a former coronel from the US army who had more pro-Israel tattoos than pieces in a bag of M&M’s. Sar-El prohibits any discussion of politics or religion while on the base, but in the quiet of our room, Nina told me how she had gravitated to Judaism from her Catholic upbringing and how as peace she feels when she reads the Tanach. She is certainly much more literate about the Old Testament than I am. 

I was assigned to the same warehouse as last week, working with a team of volunteers who sorted and packed medical supplies and kits. Over the course of the week, in addition to medicines and medical items needed at the front, we packed thousands of intravenous kits. On the last day of our service week, the volunteers were told that many trucks of supplies were delivered to the soldiers fighting in Gaza and the supplies that we had packed during the week were on those trucks. I wish these supplies were not needed by IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, but the confirmation that in some way we, the volunteers, actually contributed to help Israel’s war effort was very satisfying information.