Thursday, May 3, 2012

Where in the world is Nor Grebnief off to now?

I’ve been checking out my packing list for an upcoming trip to Israel. Clothes and toiletries; that would be check and check! Camera, iPod and Kindle; check, check and check! Passport, airplane ticket, cash and credit card; check, check, check and check!

I’m good to go, it would seem. Oh, wait, almost forgot to detail the really important stuff – sheets, pillow case and towels; laundry bag, detergent, clothes pins and hangars; flashlight, extra batteries and snacks! No, I’m not headed off to summer camp, although the spartan quarters that I’ll be calling home for much of my stay in Israel could easily pass for a kid’s retreat.

I’m taking part yet again in a volunteer program, Sar-El, that will have me living and working on an army base – if I broke the rules and told you exactly where, both you and I would be getting a visit from a beefy Mossad agent!

Instead, I’ll simply report that I’ll be kept busy doing pretty much whatever I’m asked to handle – sorting, packing, cleaning, painting or any other specialized tasks that I’m uniquely qualified to handle. On the weekends I’ll be free to travel around the country and already have plans to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Zichron Yaakov – a lovely little village nestled against the Mediterranean, just south of Haifa. I’m thinking there will be drinking!

Sar-El has been around for decades, created to provide volunteers for the IDF so the real soldiers are free to handle important stuff – wars, uprisings, protests; you know, defending Israel for you and me. Truth to tell, I’m not thinking too much about politics or existential threats to the Jewish homeland when I’m busying pulling weeds or sorting medical equipment on an IDF base.

The why for trekking half-way around the globe would take way too much time to explain; but the short version would have to include meeting and working with other like-minded folks from around the world. Sar-El also provides an opportunity to get way outside the tourist bubble and enjoy a reasonably up close and personal relationship with the soldiers and civilians who call this country home.

Oh, there’s also the serpentine streets that wind about the Old City of Jerusalem and the oh-so cosmopolitan vibe of Tel Aviv; splendid sunsets over the Mediterranean and million-shekel views from Haifa; the ancient secrets of Sfat and moving history of Masada. Did I mention there would be drinking? Why, yes, I think I did!

There are also modern delights and spiritual experiences to be had, including world-class hummus, shawarma and rugelach! But I digress. The bottom line – and I’ve reported this before – I’ve met people who’ve traveled to Israel and had bad moments, but never met anyone who had a bad trip. Stay tuned; I’ll be right back!

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