There are a lot of Israel volunteer programs, but selecting one which doesn't take you for a ride is the tricky part. There are so many volunteer programs all over the world which have become more commercial than anything else. This is because you are paying them and their staff so that you can contribute to the world. A lot of these organizations are making a lot of profit. In saying that, there are some really genuine people out there and if you find some of these folk you will be in luck.
Israel Kibbutz Volunteer
When I look back at my experiences on kibbutz Shomrat, what I was expecting was a whole lot of fun and a base to do my travelling from. What I got was a lot of growth in terms of independence, being able to work long hours without complaining.
I also gained a greater understanding of the Jewish lifestyle, the history, the culture, the Jewish rituals and the different ways between young and older Jews and that’s what I am grateful for and appreciate the most. There was a day when the Holocaust was commemorated. In the large dining room, where we all had our meals together, people who had survived the concentration camps, spoke about their experience. It is a day I will never forget.
A kibbutz is defined as democratic socialist system. There is no need for materialism in this community. Everyone is treated equally. There is a strong sense of community where everyone on the kibbutz puts in their contribution in terms of work. Everyone eats together in a dining hall and everyone socializes together on a Friday evening.
Generally for work you should be between 18 and 32, physically and mentally fit. You will be expected to work a 6 day week, probably 8 hours a day, whether it’s in agriculture picking fruit, milking the cows or in the service area, helping with food service.
Normally volunteers are expected to make an early start. In my experience I started picking avocados at 4 am. We came back for breakfast, which consisted of avos on toast and from then it was off to work again until lunch time.
Volunteers are provided with separate living quarters to the kibbutzniks (members of the kibbutz), which are fairly basic or more luxurious depending on the kibbutz. The kibbutz provides for the basic needs of the volunteers, which includes meals.
The kibbutz will usually include a swimming pool with most sports facilities, a library and sometimes a cinema. It’s important not just to pick any kibbutz because some kibbutzes are extremely poor with not many facilities and not too friendly with volunteers.
If you travel with a group of people, everything will be arranged for you by one of the volunteer programs in Israel. Most people however travel alone, so you would go to the kibbutz office in Tel Aviv. You might have to wait a day or two and pay a basic registration fee.
This is one of the volunteer programs in Israel that you will get paid for - I guess that doesn't really make it a so-called volunteer program, but I thought I would include this as an alternative.
The option to join a moshav is the same idea as a kibbutz with the social aspect that it is community focused. The exception is that the farm is individually owned. This allows the farmers to make a profit from what has been produced, allowing for more independence.
Volunteers that apply to work at a moshav receive a substantial wage. Accommodation is included, but food and all personal requirements will have to be paid for. The work consists mostly in agricultural, such as fruit picking.
Inexpensive tours are being offered more and more now. Walking tours of the old city of Jerusalem, day trips to the Dead Sea and Jericho region or an adventure trip in the Negev are always popular. If you are willing to spend a few more pennies, then a tour off the beaten track on a camel safari might sound inviting.
Because Israel is only 28,000 sq km, it’s very easy to get around. It only takes 5 hours on the bus from Tel Aviv to Eilat in the North, which is probably going to be the longest journey you make. The bus system is excellent making it the second largest bus company in the world after Greyhound and it is the first choice for public transport in the country.
Of course it always can be exciting getting to know a country by yourself, especially if you are going to be there for a while. Because the country is so small, it is easy enough to arrange your own tour. All you need is an Israel travel guide.
There are many tourist attractions in Israel. Of course, people come to Israel for different reasons, but there is definitely something for everyone. Most people can understand English, so the language barrier won’t be that heavy. If you plan your trips and accommodation properly you will have little frustrations.
Top Things to Do in Israel as a Volunteer
- Visit the Dead Sea - You may want to go here to give yourself a lift. This is the lowest point on earth. It is an experience like no other. Besides that, there is so much history associated with this area.
- Visit Jerusalem - Whether you are Christian, Jewish, or you don't believe in anything, this is something you can't leave off. Go to places like the Old City and the Wailing Wall.
- If you are looking for more adventure - then you can go snorkeling in Eilat. Because Israel is so small it is easy to get around by bike, and this is a great way of seeing the sights.
- Experience Beach life in Tel Aviv - This is an amazing Mediterranean beach, packed in the summer, with water that is so warm, and you will find that the summer nights are incredibly beautiful here. There is a great vibe going on here, with lots of restaurants to sample typical Israeli food, so don't ignore this one.
- Yad Vahsem - Paying tribute to the Holocaust. Spend your time having a look at the material that is provided here. It is incredibly touching.