Giving Back Through Sherut Leumi: Three Young Olot Reflect on their National Service
Sherut Leumi (National Service) is a voluntary, 1–2 year national service option for religious women (and others) who are exempt from military service. A unique opportunity to give back to Israeli society, Sherut Leumi volunteers work in all areas of Israeli society, including education, welfare, at-risk youth, government and more. Jessica Zemble spoke with three recent olot to learn about their Sherut Leumi experiences.
HOMETOWN: JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
SHERUT LEUMI PLACEMENT: MEUCHEDET HEALTH CLINIC
I originally had no plans to do Sherut Leumi because I felt my Hebrew was too weak, planning instead to study Hebrew at a mechinah and then go to law school. But I talked to a government prosecutor who told me she would never hire someone who had not served their country through either national service or the army. I thought about it, and ultimately decided that I could overcome the barriers, and I signed up. Ironically, I’ve since decided against going to law school, but I don’t regret my decision! Not only am I getting work experience, but I also get to see how the country runs behind the scenes. My job has given me a sincere appreciation for the healthcare system and how the country works.
So many people truly care about bnot sherut (Sherut Leumi volunteers). Ori, a program that provides lone bnot sherut with guidance and support, is a fantastic program. I am in an apartment with the most amazing girls, all idealistic and kind people.
I’ve also had some funny experiences. One time while checking on a young patient, the child’s father tried to convert me to Islam! He said to me: “Wow, you must be religious, because you are so gentle. I want to save your soul.” He kindly showed me how to download the Koran online, and made me listen to a five minute sermon by his Imam!”
Sherut has opened my eyes to what it is like to live and work in Israel, and what it really means to give. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into, but now I feel I’m contributing to the country and developing and strengthening important qualities within myself.
HOMETOWN: HIGHLAND PARK, NJ
SHERUT LEUMI PLACEMENT: ATLIT DETENTION CAMP
It sounds cliché, but I volunteered for Sherut Leumi because I wanted to give back. I believe Israel is the only right place for Jews to be – I love the history, the geography and the way Judaism is infused even into the most benign parts of the day – and so I want to serve it.
I work as a tour guide in the Atlit Detention Camp, about 20 kilometers south of Haifa, where the British detained Jews who tried to immigrate without a certificate in the 1930s and 40s.
Part of my job is translating the testimonies of the ‘illegal’ immigrants, many of whom were Holocaust survivors who went through the unimaginable in Europe only to be put back behind barbed wire here in the Land. I’ve even had the honor of meeting several of them.
HOMETOWN: LONDON, UK
SHERUT LEUMI PLACEMENT: JERUSALEM VARIETY CENTER
I chose to do Sherut Leumi because I love Israel and wanted to serve the country. The army was not a fit for me, so this was a good alternative.
I worked in a gan (kindergarten), where it is the little things that truly matter. Whether it was playing music and dancing with the kids, helping them sit down to play or eat, or simply putting a smile on a child’s face, I knew I was slowly but surely making a difference, impacting both my life and the lives of the children I was responsible for.
Jessica Zemble studied at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, is currently studying Computer Science at Machon Tal and is an intern for HaMizrachi magazine.