Volunteer Handbook



Sar-El Canada is the Canadian branch of Sar-El, The National Project for Volunteers for Israel. Founded by Israeli General Aharon Davidi, in 1982, Sar-El is represented worldwide. Sar-El Canada is the third largest branch after Volontariat Civil (U.P.I.) in France and Volunteers for Israel (VFI) in the USA.

Sar-El is the Hebrew acronym for Sherut l’yisrael – service to Israel.
Volunteers have the unique opportunity to meet and work with Israelis during an important part of their life cycle – their military duty time.

The late Ezer Weizmann, former President, has said:
“Your spirit of volunteering to work in the IDF bases exemplifies the unity of am yisrael, the people of Israel. When you come, you become Israelis for the short period you stay with us. When you go back, your life is enriched with a profound Israeli experience.”


The IDF has recently discovered that many soldiers are posting pictures on Facebook and other websites that contain sensitive and classified military information. The IDF has begun to closely monitor all such websites and will take strong action against soldiers who post such pictures, including court-martialing the soldiers. We at Sar-El welcome our volunteers’ pictures, articles and publicity about Sar-El. But,  we ask that you refrain from taking pictures of anything that might be even remotely considered as classified or sensitive. This includes mentioning the names and specific locations of bases.

We cannot “court-martial” our volunteers. But, we can and will reject volunteers for future programs if they disobey the rules. Please tell your fellow volunteers and if you happen to see something on a website which should not be there, please tell the person who posted it, or contact us.

Army issue on Your Base

You’ll be issued the following:

  • a uniform – shirt, trousers, cap, belt.
  • a blue Sar-El shoulder “flash”.
  • in winter, a sweater and parka.
  • army boots if the work-site requires them. Bring closed-toe shoes that you can work in.
  • blankets or sleeping bag, and, generally, narrow sheets, (see below)
    pillows, likely, but not always.

Medical Insurance

You must have proof of adequate health insurance. Sar-El provides no hospital/medical insurance for volunteers. Review your out-of-country travel insurance, and if necessary, buy appropriate extra coverage. Canadian Medicare alone is inadequate.
You must have access to sufficient funds to cover medical emergencies, since your insurance may not pay up front. Check with your insurance provider on their payment arrangements for service in Israel.

Travel insurance coverage that includes trips extended due to Covid is also required at this time.


Credit cards, particularly VISA, are widely accepted. Traveler’s cheques can be a nuisance, particularly Canadian-dollar cheques. Many volunteers don’t bother with traveler’s cheques at all, using automatic teller machines (ATMs) instead. Bank Hapoalim, and other ATMs too, accept Canadian ATM cards affiliated with PLUS or CIRRUS systems; insert your card and the screen message appears in English if that’s the “language of your card” back home. You withdraw money from your Canadian account, in shekels, and your account is automatically debited in Canadian dollars at a correct exchange rate and with a service charge. And ATMs are “open” when banks are closed.


Many bases no longer have pay phones, since Israelis are heavy cell phone users. But don’t ask your madricha  to use her cell phone. It’s advisable to rent your own. You can arrange delivery of a cell phone in Canada, before you leave for Israel.

Check with the Sar-El Canada office for cell phone related information. In Israel, you don’t pay for incoming calls on an Israeli cell phone.
Israeli pay phones, when available, use Telecards, and other similar cards, which you can buy at the airport and, sometimes, more cheaply, at the base canteen. Many bases don’t have pay phones.

To call Canada or the US, dial 013-1, or 014-1, followed by the area code and the number. This works for both Telecard and cell-phone calls. Or use the special calling arrangements provided by your Canadian long distance supplier for calls to Canada.

Upon Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Terminal 3

While waiting for your luggage you can buy Israeli currency, shekels, at the airport bank branch, or ATM (see Money). (Get enough for your first weekend off the base, because you may not be able to visit a bank or ATM before Shabbat.)
Plant to arrive before noon on the prescribed Sunday where you normally will be met  in the arrivals hall at gate 1, near Aroma Coffee. This is subject to change. Be sure to check your final email from Sar-El Israel for any last minute updates.

There will usually be a Sar-El representative there. A currency exchange and ATM are nearby. If you are early you can wait at the chairs.

If you do not see the group when you arrive, please contact Laura:

  • Phone inside Israel: 054-258-6688
  • E-mail: laurap@sar-el.org

Sar-El phone numbers  are also on the back of your name badge.

If you arrive before a scheduled start date to join Sar-El in Israel, you must phone  Laura  to confirm your arrival and the arrangements for joining. Follow the instructions that you were given in Canada.


Everyone must purchase a “Rav Kav” bus card BEFORE going on a bus or train. The bus drivers will not take any money. You can purchase these cards at the central bus stations or train stations, as well as at the airport. Read more

On the Base

Life on whatever base you will be assigned to is communal. You sleep in barracks with a minimum two to a room. Sleeping arrangements, shower rooms and water closets for women are separate from facilities for men. Shower rooms have two or more stalls.

Modest clothing is required on bases. No tank tops or short shorts.  Bring closed toe shoes for working. Sandals, Flip-Flops etc. are not safe to work in and will not be permitted in work areas.

All meals are kosher & are eaten in a mess hall. The noon meal is the heartiest one of the day and is normally delicious. Breakfasts and dinners are  simple by comparison.

Volunteer Conduct

Drugs & Alcohol

Volunteers found using recreational drugs, or alcohol or engaging in other inappropriate behavior, will be dismissed from the program.

Religion & Proselytizing

We have had problems with “subtle” proselytizing. Volunteers must understand that they cannot talk about religion in any way which may be construed as trying to impart one’s beliefs on someone else or which is intended to be persuasive or which is offensive. We ask volunteers NOT to talk about religious beliefs. This is a very delicate issue and there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not allowed. Volunteers who do or say things which make other people feel uncomfortable or distribute inappropriate literature on the base, will be asked to leave the program.


The same applies regarding politics. We know it is hard to be in Israel and not talk about politics but just be careful not to get too argumentative. If there are problems, the volunteer will be asked to leave the program.  Remember, the army is not “political” and the soldiers are not allowed to give their political views.

Inappropriate behavior

Volunteers will also be dismissed from the program if they exhibit any other inappropriate behavior such as: not following base rules, not following the madrichot’s instructions, swearing, talking back or arguing with the madrichot, causing dissension among the other volunteers, acting inappropriately with  other volunteers, civilian staff or solders,  or behavior deemed to be dangerous to persons, property, or security.


Each volunteer group has a madricha (F) or madrich (M). She/he is a soldier assigned as your guide, mentor, translator and liaison with the base commander. Your madricha  will arrange for uniforms, work, evening activities, trips, etc.

Work assignment

You have contracted with Sar-El to put in a full day’s work – manual labour. You are entitled to get clear instructions for meaningful work within your capabilities. If necessary, ask your work station manager for clarification  and/or ask your madricha for help.

Your work station may be hot. The work may be repetitive and will involve lifting.  Every effort will be made to match you to the work. But, there should be no misunderstanding. You have voluntarily enrolled in the program to work.

Evening activities

You are expected to attend activities arranged by your madricha. Some evening programs will be fun, others more informative.

Off Limits

You may not leave the base without permission from your  madricha. She/he is responsible for your security.  Please cooperate.


The work week runs from noon, Sunday to noon, Thursday. Plan on leaving the base on weekends. You are responsible for your off-base accommodation  Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and all other personal expenses on weekends. Note that bases may close with little or  no notice for holidays and you may be required to find accommodations.

At the end of the weekend you must be back at your assigned meeting point before 9 AM.

On request, your madricha will advise you about reservations at a hostel or hotel.  Be sure to ask for a Sar-El discount.


The program may include a guided tour during the work week. Your madricha may also have information on commercial tour guides for special weekend tours.

Your address and Contact Links in Israel

c/o Sar-El, PO Box 953, Kiron, 5510802, Israel

Laura Pazuelo:   Program coordinator:

Sar-El Israel office:

  • 03-682-9740
  • FAX to office, from Canada: 011-972-3-682-9743

Departure from Israel.

Check with your airline to confirm your flight time. You may get help from your madricha, but you are responsible for your own arrangements, particularly if you are staying on after your “tour of duty”.

Hebrew Words to Remember

  • Savlanoot – patience
  • Balagan – confusion
  • G’mi-shoot – flexibility
  • L’hitra-ot – until we meet again

When you return to Canada

We’d like to hear from you when you return. Please call:

  • Sar-El Canada
  • 788 Marlee Ave.
  • Toronto, ON, M6B 3K1
  • (416) 781-6089
  • toronto@sarelcanada.org
  • www.sarelcanada.org
  • Sar-El Canada
  • 1 CarrĂ© Cummings Square
  • Montreal, QC, H3W 1M6
  • (514) 735-0272
  • montreal@sarelcanada.org
  • www.sarelcanada.org

Make the most of your Sar-El experience.