Three days a week for four weeks this spring, I walked through the Jaffa Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem, weaving my way on the narrow stone streets past vendors and tourists, stopping sometimes for a bagel at Hurva Square, to a two-story building on Mount Zion Road.
Could anyone have a better commute to work?
Thanks to Skilled Volunteers for Israel, I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development and experience Jerusalem, not as a tourist, but as though I really lived there. Indeed, this magical city seeped into my soul, both spiritually and practically. The experience was a rich combination of living, working, and still having plenty of time for touring. (Just a few examples of places I visited: The kotel. The Temple Mount. The Israel Museum. The Knesset. The City of David. The Mount of Olives. The tour under the kotel. Hebron. Jericho. Masada. Tzfat. Ashkelon.)
Not only that, but I feel that I really helped a worthwhile environmental nonprofit do a small part toward tikkun olam. True, there isn’t much one person can do part-time in four weeks to stop climate change; indeed, there isn’t much one organization can do in four weeks. But Rabbi Yonatan Neril, the dedicated founder and executive director of the Interfaith Center, had several projects ready for me, and in fact we saw the results of one small outreach regarding Catholic clergy.
Marla, Terry, and the Skilled Volunteers crew did so much to ease my nervous entry into a country where I didn’t know a soul nor speak the language. Marla found my lovely airbnb flat and provided maps in advance, and Terry helped with the ins and outs of daily life, like buses, the shuq, and taxis.
Other than actually making aliyah, the Skilled Volunteers program is the best way to go to Israel.