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Lived as an Israeli

Updated: Apr 2

For one month I lived like an Israeli – going to work each day, getting a bus pass, taking buses all over the city of Jerusalem, shopping in grocery stores, and just getting the ambience of the city.   Although I have been to Israel over twenty times and traveled all over the country, I never had the opportunity to stay in one place for an extended period.   This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and Skilled Volunteers for Israel provided me with the framework to be able to do this. Terry Hendin, the volunteer coordinator in Jerusalem is terrific. She provided me with information both before I arrived and while I was in Israel to make me feel comfortable and understand how Israelis work and interact with volunteers.

I worked at the Israel Free Loan Association(IFLA), assisting the Director of Development, Kaley Zeitouni. Kaley is a fairly recent olah from California and is a fantastic young woman who is dedicated to the work she does for IFLA and her enthusiasm and zeal helped make me feel part of the team.  It takes a few days to get into the swing of working with someone, but Kaley and I were able to find the right combination so I could contribute necessary work for IFLA.   I prepared flyers and brochures for campaigns and special events, worked on data base lists, did research for foundations that might provide funding, did mailings, etc. It was very rewarding, especially working on the campaign for an Emergency Fund to assist families that were affected by the fires in November 2016.

I had the opportunity to meet another volunteer, Nancy Huntsman from Cleveland, and we went to a concert at the Jerusalem Theater and dinner together. As a long time, active Hadassah member I arranged a tour to Hadassah Hospital at Ein Karem with Terry and Nancy. And Terry invited us to her home for a post-Thanksgiving dinner.


Dinner with SVFI Staff Terry Hendin and Judy Gray and volunteers Nancy Huntsman and Barbara Alper (right)

There were some blips that I had to overcome but it all worked out. When I arrived in Israel, my luggage did not. It took 4 days for ElAl to get it to me. My phone was not working the day I arrived so I was not able to contact anyone.   I got sick with a sinus attack and had to go to a doctor. Terry provided me with the name of an English speaking practice. The hot water heater broke in my apartment and it took a few days to get it fixed (it was over Shabbat). I stayed with friends for the weekend. But these were minor inconveniences and knew they would all work out.

I celebrated my birthday at work and it was nice.   I brought in a cake for the staff and I got balloons and well wishes from all.

Skilled Volunteers for Israel provided me an opportunity to see and experience Israel in a new dimension. The organization is professional in its approach to volunteers and makes every effort to match volunteers with suitable work opportunities. You have to be a fairly independent person to do this, and be able to roll with the punches. If you want the opportunity to see a different side of Israel, to meet Israelis at work and in their daily lives, this is the way to do it. I would certainly consider do it again.

Barbara Alper, Florida

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