Reporting for Duty, Sir

After a day and half of rest, I’m excited to report for my volunteer service with the IDF. I’m up early, very eager with anticipation to know which base I will be assigned to and what work I will be doing. As always, Israeli breakfast is amazing – artistically arranged array of cheeses, breads, fruits, hummus, vegetables, pastries, coffee and more. I theoretically wished for two stomachs so I could taste everything that was laid out. In reality, I hurried through breakfast so I could catch a Gett (Israel’s Uber) to report for my volunteer service.

When I last volunteered in May 2022, there were about 50 volunteers in total and the clearing time took about an hour. I wanted to be early so I could be processed and then have a coffee. As I walked into the reporting station, I felt total awe. There were already more than 100 volunteers in the reporting area waiting to be checked in. I thought, well, I’ll be the last in line, but to my surprise, more and more people kept getting in line.

Naturally, I started chatting with others. An uncle and a nephew from France. A woman from South Africa. Two women from England. An 80-year-old man from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two young men from Norway. A woman from Argentina. None of these people had ever volunteered with Sar-El before. OMG. It hit home. The solidarity of the Jews is worldwide and I’m part of it. People from all hemispheres, from all over the world, have come to Israel to support our homeland in its time of extreme need. By the time the check-in process was finished, there were over 250 volunteers in the report area.

I reach the head of the line and am checked in. I’m told that I have been assigned to the medical supply distribution base. I’ve been on this base many times before, so I know what the work will be: sorting a myriad of pharmaceuticals, preparing kits for various battlefield medical procedures, packing an inventory of medical supplies all of which will be sent to Gaza, to the North and to all the other IDF bases. I feel very proud to be given the opportunity to be part of the life-saving supply chain for the soldiers who are doing their best to protect the people of Israel and our cultural homeland.

Shortly after 12:00 PM, the volunteers and accompanying soldiers, our madrih’ot or big bosses, board tourist buses that will take us to our respective bases. While others will be going to bases near Be’er Sheva in the South or various bases in the North, my base is only a short ride. We arrive and lunch in the mess hall is waiting for us. I feel very lucky to have been assigned to this base because the food is always tasty and plentiful.

After lunch, we drop our luggage in the barracks and we go to get our work uniforms. These are not Chanel. And if green isn’t in your color palette you are SOL (sh*t out of luck). Many women soldiers on active service (the 18- 19- 20- year-olds) have their uniforms tailored to be form-fitting and can almost, in some cases, be considered tight and sexy. But the volunteers receive uniforms that are typically too large and with massive amounts of bulky material that are the most unflattering clothes I have ever worn. The pants have big pockets that you can stuff with your phone, notebook, pen, lip balm because it’s so dry here, and other paraphernalia which adds a few additional inches to one’s hips. I love wearing this uniform because it makes me feel more unified with the soldiers, and I believe other volunteers feel the same way.

We will work a half-day today. As we are walking to our work areas on the base, I see Mashiah, the civilian warehouse manager that I have worked with many times before. He is beloved by all the volunteers. His eyes meet mine and it’s like in the musical South Pacific, we walk toward each other and exchange gigantic hugs. Tears roll down his face and mine because we are so happy to see each other. I’m very glad he’s well and safe, and he is emotional to see me, someone he considers not just a volunteer, but a friend.