FAQ

Preparing For The Program

  • You benefit from our more than 30 years of experience sending American volunteers to Israel.
  • By living and working with Israelis, you become an “insider” and discover Israel as no tourist can.
  • Our year-round programs are relatively low cost and fit your schedule.
  • You’ll meet and form friendships with people from all over the world who share your love and concern for Israel.
  • VFI’s IRS status as a 501(c)(3)–a not-for-profit organization-means your application fee and some of your transportation costs may be tax deductible. Be sure to speak with your accountant.
  • Our experienced regional representatives have visited Israel many times. We are readily available to answer your questions and share tips about travel and sightseeing. All you have to do is ask!
  • We provide a take-along Program Handbook written for our volunteers. It will serve as a handy resource guide throughout your stay.
  • You will get more than you give, knowing you’ve made a personal difference–and you’ll have fun too!

The IDF program is open to:

  • volunteers 17 (16 with a parent or guardian) and older. There is no maximum age limit.
  • those who meet the physical and psychological requirements outlined in our application packet
  • both Jews and non-Jews

Other Special Programs have their own requirements. Please consult the individual program website.

Our IDF Base Program is well suited for those traveling solo. Because it is a group experience, you will meet and form friendships with your fellow volunteers from diverse backgrounds and locations. Volunteers tend to travel together on weekends, so no one need worry about being left out. Your madrichah can help with weekend plans.

If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

To enter Israel, you must have a passport valid for at least six months after your departure date. Therefore, for a typical 3-week program, you should have 7+ months remaining on your passport.

For most U.S. citizens, a tourist visa is not required unless you plan to stay in Israel longer than 90 days.

After you are accepted to the program, you are responsible for booking your flight to Israel and filling out the Travel Form that is part of your application package. Of course, you will want to compare prices. We recommend that you consult with a local travel agent or check online for a complete list of the airlines that fly into Ben-Gurion Airport.

Volunteers are required to have insurance that will cover any medical expenses incurred while on the Sar-El program. Check with your U.S. insurance company first; many will reimburse you-upon your return– for out-of-pocket expenses abroad.Medicare will not cover you in Israel.

Volunteers who need additional medical coverage or want travel insurance often use the following companies:

IDF Base Option Expenses

In general, your expenses are covered during volunteer periods on the IDF base. Weekend expenses (Thursday afternoon-Sunday morning) are not.

Expenses covered by the VFI/Sar-El Program include:

housing and meals during the volunteer work week
ground transportation from the airport to base at approved arrival times and to a central location at the end of each program
work clothes on military bases
transportation for Sar-El sponsored excursions, if offered
evening lectures and cultural programs on base
weekend accommodations in the Sar-El hostel in Jaffa, space permitting

Expenses paid by the volunteer:

VFI-USA application fee: $125 for adults; $75 for volunteers returning within 12 months; and $55 for full-time students.
round-trip airfare to Israel
expenses before and after the program
ground transportation on weekends and for final departure from Ben Gurion
weekend accommodations, meals and other expenses
pocket money for personal needs
health insurance coverage (required)

At hotels, museums, shops, and on public transportation, always ask if a Sar-El discount is available.

For your personal security and convenience, we strongly recommend that you have a cell phone during your stay in Israel. If you need to rent a phone, you may contact these companies recommended by our volunteers:

On the IDF Base Program, you will be given work clothes for during the day. In the evening, casual attire–jeans, t-shirts, sweaters–are appropriate, depending on the season.

Also bring clothes suitable for your weekend plans. You will receive a detailed packing list of needed supplies from your regional representative.

On The Program

VFI is a nonprofit organization chartered in the U.S. that partners with Israel’s Sar-El organization. VFI recruits, processes, and assists volunteers prior to their departure for Israel. Sar-El is an Israeli nonprofit that administers the IDF Base Program in Israel. Miri Sharon is the Sar-El coordinator.

Your regional representative will give you written instructions about where to meet your group in Ben-Gurion Airport. If you arrive before your program’s start date, you must call the Sar-El coordinator for meeting instructions. In addition, you will have a VFI Program Handbook with further information.

You do not need to speak Hebrew for the IDF Base program. Your group will be assigned English-speaking soldier(s) who will be responsible for you at all times and who will translate as needed. You will learn some basic Hebrew terms to use on base, so be sure to approach the soldiers and try out your new vocabulary.

Be prepared for an adventure! Living conditions are much more Spartan than you are accustomed to at home, but you and your fellow volunteers will have fun adapting and finding ways to make the barracks more comfortable. Detailed information about base conditions, meals, and laundry can be found in our VFI Program Handbook.

The following policies are strictly enforced:

  • no proselytizing
  • no drug and alcohol use
  • no photographing on base without permission
 

On IDF Base Programs, you will be off the base from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning. During that time you are free to visit friends and family, tour, and spend time with your new VFI friends.

Some conveniently located, moderately priced hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offer discounts to Sar-El volunteers. Click here for a list of suggested hotels. You can also get the list from your regional representative or the Sar-El coordinator. In addition, the IDF operates a no-cost hostel, Beit Oded, in Jaffa. You may stay there if space permits. Your group leader (madrich/madrichah) on the base must be notified of your intention to stay at Beit Oded early in the week.

NEW! On a few select dates, VFI may offer VFI PLUS, which combines two weeks on a base combined with guided tours before the program, on weekends, and after a program. For details, see:

Check the Schedule for dates and tell your regional representative if you want to join a VFI Plus program

VFI PLUS is a unique personal opportunity to both tour and volunteer. Immerse yourself in Israeli culture by volunteering to provide needed civilian services to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Reside and work on a military base for 9 days. Tour Israel in air conditioned style for 8 days. This program is designed to provide 17-days of All-Inclusive services to first timers to Israel. For 2018 we introduce the VFI PLUS ADVANCED program for repeat volunteers, frequent visitors to Israel, and those who have already been to the major must-see tourist sites. VFI PLUS ADVANCED touring zeros in on unusual and interesting experiences rarely encountered during basic touring. This program is designed to provide 17-days All-Inclusive services to repeat visitors to Israel. Learn More

After You Return

VFI is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. We are supported financially through application fees, donations, and the sale of VFI Tribute Cards, and other items. Visit our Support VFI page to see how you can help.

A hard-working corps of dedicated alumni throughout the country also supports us. They give their time, energy, and enthusiasm to help us recruit and assist new volunteers. You’ll never find a more generous group of people. You can be one of them!

Yes, thank you. Make your check payable to Volunteers for Israel and mail it to:

Financial Secretary
c/o Volunteers For Israel
330 West 42nd Street
Suite 1618
New York, NY 10036

Due to VFI’s IRS status as a 501(c)(3) a not-for-profit organization, your application fees and some of your transportation costs may be tax deductible. Consult your accountant.

In the past, some colleges have offered credit for Sar-El programs. Check with your college’s Study Abroad Office.

First, help us improve our programs by filling out our Post Program Questionnaire when you return from the program. Your responses are very helpful. Check our website regularly for the latest VFI news, and be sure to attend alumni events in your area. Contact your Regional Manager and offer to be an Ambassador, or help with a VFI presentation or booth.


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Year-round, we offer one-, two-, and three-week programs which may be extended with permission.

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