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While Israel is known for its wide range of outreach programs that appeal to visitors overseas, it is also home to many organizations that encourage travelers to take a more hands-on approach once they reach the country. In the coming year, travelers visiting the Holy Land can make an impact via short-term volunteering. Many flexible programs accept volunteers for varying time commitments, from a few hours to several weeks. Travelers looking to make the most of their Israel experience can take advantage of these voluntary programs in order to make a difference in the lives of locals.
Save a Child’s Heart Founded in the mid-1990s, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israel-based international humanitarian project that aims to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children, regardless of their nationality, religion, gender or financial situation. In addition to treating patients suffering from heart disease, SACH also helps establish competent medical centers in developing countries. For travelers with a tight schedule, SACH offers two part-time volunteer programs at either the SACH Children’s Home or Wolfson Medical Center, located in Holon, Israel, just south of Tel Aviv. The Children’s Home, which is in close proximity to Wolfson, houses patients for a three-month period during their examinations, surgery and recovery. Center volunteers have the opportunity to interact with and plan activities for children of all ages before and after their surgeries. Travelers can visit the house one to three times a week for a minimum two-week period; shifts are Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon or 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteer shifts at the Wolfson Medical Center allow for more flexibility. The morning shift runs anywhere between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and the afternoon shift begins at 1 p.m. and ends around 6 p.m.; travelers can work from one to four shifts per week. A volunteer’s role in the hospital is to prepare bedside activities such as coloring, music and puzzles for child patients. A quick application can be completed online and travelers must specify their projected dates of volunteering. Volunteers are not required to be familiar with Hebrew.
GoEco: Coral Reef Conservation Coral Beach Natural Reserve, a nearly mile-long stretch of beach located in Eilat, was one of the first nature reserves to be established in Israel. The reef there is home to a variety of coral and fish species, and it has recently become endangered. Volunteers of all ages have the opportunity to help protect it from threats while simultaneously enjoying what Eilat — a popular, luxury vacation destination — has to offer. This one- to eight-week program starts at $300 per person. Visitors assist with general maintenance, water buoy maintenance, beach cleaning, escorting park rangers and educating visitors about beach rules. Volunteers are taken on beach and boat observation excursions as well as guided tours. Volunteers work six days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. During off-hours, they are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the beach and partake in activities that include swimming, snorkeling, diving, swimming with dolphins and bird-watching. Proper training, transportation and 24-hour local and emergency medical support are included, and participants must know basic English or Hebrew. Housing and meals are not included in the cost; however, there are many accommodation options in the nearby area. GoEco also makes hostel and hotel recommendations upon request.Travelers can sign up for any one- to eight-week period in the year and must apply online. GoEco offers several other sustainable short-term opportunities for people of all ages in addition to family-oriented volunteer projects.
Jewish National Fund: Fruit of the Vine Mission Each year, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) takes travelers on an eight-day, behind-the-scenes mission tour of Israel that provides them with a glimpse into political, medical, technological and agricultural organizations located throughout the country. These missions strive to give visitors a deeper understanding of the country and create a richer connection between participants and the people and land of Israel. Next year, from Feb. 9-16, the JNF will be hosting its Fruit of the Vine Mission, which includes visits to Aleh Negev Special Needs School; Beersheba River Park; the copper mines at Timna Park; Arava Environmental Institute; Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum; and various natural settings for hands-on tree planting. Throughout the trip, travelers also have the opportunity to meet top Israeli newsmakers, experts and opinion leaders in variety of fields. The mission is priced at $3,610 per person, based on double occupancy; a single supplement is available for $965 per person. The trip also includes guided tours by Israel experts, transportation on air-conditioned motorcoaches, tips and luxury accommodations. In their spare time, trip participants can visit such cities as Tel Aviv and Eilat, take part in recreational opportunities, join optional tours to Masada and the Dead Sea and sample wine at local wineries.Additional missions are planned for the 2011 season. Agents should visit the JNF website for the complete schedule.
Listen to an archived version of our recent Israel Connection webinar with the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Isramworld and Yalla Tours.
View a series of Israel videos, produced by TravelAge West On Air:
Israel: An OverviewIsrael: Holy SitesIsrael: Outdoor ActivitiesIsrael: Sophisticated Sites