Volunteer Handbook


Sar-El Canada (sometimes called Canadian Volunteers for Israel, or CVI) 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 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.


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 cel 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.)
If you arrive during normal working hours on the prescribed Sunday, you will be met at the meeting place in the Arrivals hall: at the chairs as you face exit #2, next to the Swarovski counter. 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 cannot see or find the group at the airport, call: Pamela Lazarus 052-821-9945 pamela@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 the Program coordinator to confirm your arrival and the arrangements for joining. Follow the instructions that you were given in Canada.

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.

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.


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. On request, your madricha will advise you about reservations at a hostel, hotel or Beit Oded, the Sar-El hostel in Tel Aviv.  Accommodation in the Beit Oded hostel, if available, is free.  At other hotels or hostels be sure to ask for a Sar-El discount.


The program will likely include a guided tour(s) 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

Telephone Pamela Lazarus, Program coordinator:

  • if dialed in Israel 052-821-9945
  • if dialed from Canada 011-972-52-821-9945
  • Sar-El office 03-682-9740
  • FAX to office, from Canada: 011-972-3-682-9743
  • Beit Oded (Sar-El hostel): 03-569-2848
    in Tel Aviv  at 5 Jerusalem Blvd. near the GESHER (NOGA) Theatre; entrance on Segula (side street)

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
  • So ne-see-ah to-va –
  • l’hitra-ot – until we meet again

Glossary of Signs on the Base (click the link)

Glossary of Signs on the Base

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
  • Bronfman Israel Experience Centre
  • Suite 315, 1 Carré Cummings Square
  • Montreal, QC, H3W 1M6
  • (514) 735-0272
  • montreal@sarelcanada.org

Make the most of your Sar-El experience.