This was my first Sar-El experience, and it proved to be above and
beyond my expectations !
The written material was detailed and helpful in preparing for my adventure, the check-in went smoothly, and with some difficulty I was successful in obtaining the all-important Rav Kav card.
I was delighted to find that our accommodations on the base were even better than I had expected, and I appreciated the semi-private room, the indoor plumbing, and the heat/air conditioning on [Base Name Removed] (even though the heat refused to work when all 12 rooms insisted on turning on the heat at the same time). When others joined us part-way through the 3 weeks, from a base where they slept on cots, and had no heat, I understood that [Base Name Removed] really is the Taj Mahal of Sar El bases.
Our three young Madrichot were charming, resourceful, sympathetic, effective, and completely delightful. They worked hard to produce up-beat morning news bulletins and interesting evening programs, and did their best to solve our individual and group problems. And when our trip to an archeological dig was rained out, they didn’t just give up, but, in conjunction with their advisors on home base, solved the problem, changed the itinerary, and found us a different archeology dig to visit. Somehow I had not known to expect trips and evening programs, so appreciated them even more. I think that I appreciated the evening programs by former IDF soldiers who spoke to us of their lives and their experiences, especially the young blind soldier, most of all. Also, I had not anticipated meeting so many interesting fellow “Sar Elniks” from so many countries, (Romania, Hungary, the Netherlands, the Czeck Republic) and I enjoyed their company and learning about their lives.
Our work was basic and often repetitive, (my sister and I worked packaging hemostats), but we understood that it was helpful, and our boss, Avi, was appreciative. He, and the one other warehouse boss who I met, Moshiach, both expressed their appreciation of the work that the Sar El volunteers do, and the contribution that Sar El makes to Israel’s defense.
Finally, on the negative side, during our three weeks, other Sar Elniks began arriving at [Base Name Removed] from other bases where “there was no work for us” and/or “ the living conditions were very rudimentary”. Unfortunately, negatives often shout louder than positives, and I’m told that while every compliment finds three listeners, every complaint finds ten. For me, if circumstances allow me to return, I might consider requesting [Base Name Removed] , (thus limiting my experience), but for others, those negatives might dissuade them from joining Sar El altogether. I imagine that those in charge are already quite aware of this small difficulty and are working to solve this minor problem.