Experience the lifestyle, culture, and excitement of Israel. Spend one or more weeks living and working on an IDF base alongside Israelis and other volunteers from around the world. Build friendships and memories that will last a lifetime while displaying your passion and support for Isreal.
Are You a Returning Israel Volunteer? Click Here To Download Our Application
Volunteers for Israel (VFI) connects Americans to Israel through volunteer service. We achieve this goal by partnering with Israeli military and civilian organizations that enable volunteers to work side-by-side with Israelis. Sar-El is the Israeli partner that administers and oversees VFI programs in Israel.
VFI Volunteers provide non-combat support doing tasks such as packing medical supplies, repairing machinery and equipment, and maintaining the IDF bases. VFI volunteers also support archaeological dig projects in Old-City Jerusalem in the City of David.
We promote solidarity and goodwill among Israelis, American Jews, and other friends of Israel.
“Best wishes on the remarkable success of the Volunteers for Israel program. What started out as a one-time effort to alleviate the shortage of civilian manpower in Israel during the Peace for Galilee Operation has evolved into a valuable national service program.” – Letter from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel representative to the United Nations, to Volunteers for Israel, February 11, 1987
Experience Israel in a way that few tourists do.
Imagine living and working as a civilian volunteer on a non-combat IDF base.
Volunteer alongside Israeli soldiers about your age, and fellow volunteers from around the world.
- FREE room and board: sleep in barracks and enjoy hearty, kosher meals in the mess hall with the soldiers.
- Repair machinery or tank parts; refurbish helmets; restock paramedic kits, etc.
- Work in army-issue fatigues (which could possibly fit!).
- Enjoy cultural programs and tours arranged by the army.
- Spend weekends as you wish, visiting friends & family, or exploring Israel.
- Your work really matters! It allows IDF reservists to stay at their jobs, their schools, or their homes, instead of being called up for duty.
“It was a great opportunity to participate in Israeli culture in a way that you can’t as a tourist. It was also a cool way to give back and show my support.”
-Nicole Crabtree, Oregon
Choose the program that works best for you.
TRAVEL SOLO OR WITH FRIENDS
Choose any 1- 2- or 3- week program which runs Sunday morning through Thursday afternoon. Since programs are available throughout the year, this is our most flexible scheduling option. You are responsible for the costs of airfare and weekend activities.
SUMMER INTERNATIONAL YOUTH PROGRAM (IYP)
Open to volunteers ages 17-25.
If you prefer summer travel and you’d like to join a group of volunteers about your age, sign up for one or more of three multi-week programs. You are responsible for the costs of airfare and weekend activities.
“My experience with VFI and the International Youth Program was life-changing. After spending three amazing weeks living on an Israeli army base and helping soldiers with their challenging tasks, I knew my journey was just beginning and I had more to give Israel. I highly recommend this program!”
-Elie Klein, IDF Paratrooper
EXTENSION AFTER BIRTHRIGHT TRIP
Open to volunteers ages 17-32.
If you will already be in Israel on a Birthright trip or other Israel Experience tour, you can extend your trip and see more of Israel – from the inside – by volunteering on a base. This adventure-filled, economical, add-on to scheduled VFI programs costs only $55.00 for the application fee.
Sign up for a 1- 2- or 3- week program. When available, enjoy a FREE weekend stay at an IDF hostel near a Tel Aviv beach–after volunteering.
NEW! FUNDED CAMPUS INITIATIVES
If you loved your Birthright Trip, check out these subsidized opportunities to GO BACK & GIVE BACK.
- Open to Birthright Alumni (freshmen to seniors).
- Join 9 other college students on a highly-subsidized* one-week trip to Israel.
- Begin with an orientation weekend at a soldiers’ hostel near a Tel Aviv beach.
- Work for 5 days alongside Israeli soldiers in army-issued fatigues.
- Enjoy tours and cultural activities specifically arranged for your school.
- *VFI pays up to $1000 towards price of your plane ticket.
- Your total cost only $350-$450+, depending upon departure date and city.
CAMPUS AMBASSADOR’S PROGRAM
Open to Birthright Alumni (freshman to junior year)
If your campus does not currently have a trip planned, why not plan that trip yourself? If you are a leader who is passionate about Israel, apply for VFI’s new Ambassador Program, where you can earn a fully-funded trip by organizing your own group of volunteers.
- Recruit fellow Birthright alumni to travel to Israel with you as VFI volunteers.
- Help with their application process.
- Work for a week on the base and enjoy cultural activities as described in the Campus Trip above.
- Enhance your leadership skills and build your resume.
- Assume a young leadership role in the Volunteers for Israel organization when you return.
Sign on for this life-changing adventure!
This “team” adults program offers an insider’s view of Israel. You will work alongside soldiers, base employees, and other volunteers on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base, performing non-combat civilian support duties such as packing medical supplies; repairing machinery and equipment; building fortifications; and cleaning, painting, and maintaining the base.
You will be housed in barracks with fellow volunteers, enjoy 3 kosher meals a day, and wear IDF work clothes. The Sunday to Thursday workweek also includes cultural programs in the evening, and tours when possible.
Weekends are spent off the base. You can travel in Israel, visit with friends and relatives, or hang out with your new VFI buddies. No-cost army hostel accommodations and reduced-price hotel rates may be available.
Year-round, we offer one-, two-, and three-week programs, that may be extended with permission. Contact your regional representative for more information.
Are you traveling solo?
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.
“Wow! What a fabulous experience! It was not the work or touring or sightseeing that I best remember; it was my interaction with the Israeli soldiers and their gratitude for the interest we showed in them and in the country they defend.”
-Gerry Moskowitz, Missouri
“The idea of living rough along with the young soldiers—living in the same kind of barracks, eating the same food, working the same hours on some of the same jobs—appealed to me as a small way of experiencing what nearly every Israeli citizen experiences in his/her youth.”
-Barbara Brady, Oregon
Your new way to volunteer and tour Israel with an All-Inclusive program.
Volunteer on an Army base. Work on an archaeological dig, Travel off the beaten path. Take a meaningful journey. Give and receive.
Choose from among our VFI PLUS programs to give your time, energy and support to the State of Israel. In turn, you will receive a life-changing journey that will make Israel come alive for you in a way that no other experience can.
VFI PLUS, VFI PLUS ADVANCED, and VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY PROGRAMS
Returning volunteers tell us that more people would volunteer to help in Israel if there were additional, unique experiences that might entice those on the fence. It would be wonderful if they had the chance to tour Israel first class, and if someone would take care of all the messy logistics and details.
In response, VFI developed VFI PLUS, ALL-Inclusive programs.
VFI’s PLUS Programs take care of everything. ALL arrangements for your volunteer assignment, housing, transportation, airport transfers, private tours, lectures, specialty guides, admission fees, food (except touring lunches), and tips are included. You are responsible only for your round-trip air travel to Tel Aviv. It could not be simpler: just pack your bags and show up.
These programs have received rave reviews.
“Best experience ever. Rewarding, nourishing, rich, vibrant and brought my heritage to life. Formed lasting friendships with Israeli’s and VFI team.”
I. VFI PLUS
This short 9-day program is suitable for anyone with limited time yet seeking to make a quick difference with a unique, enriching, fast-paced insider personal contribution to Israel’s security that will stimulate memories and stories for years.
This All-Inclusive program combines one-week volunteering on an IDF base with fast-paced custom touring of unique sites. The program starts with a Friday evening Shabbat dinner followed by touring on Saturday. Living on an IDF base, the work week starts on Sunday and ends Thursday at noon when touring resumes for Thursday, Friday and all-day Saturday, ending at the airport for a flight home.
Additional details are available at www.tinyurl.com/vfiplus26
II. VFI PLUS ADVANCED
For the Israel first-timer or veteran. You’ve climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, placed your note in the Western Wall, walked the Tel Aviv beach eating your falafel, shopped the Ha Carmel shuk and even seen the Dead Sea Scrolls. How to top that?
As in VFI PLUS, this 17-day program includes 9 days of volunteering on an IDF base plus 8 days of private, custom touring with a professional Israeli guide in an air-conditioned bus. Our deluxe itinerary features unusual and under-the radar experiences.
Additional details are available at www.tinyurl.com/vfiplus27
III. VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY
Awaken your inner Indiana Jones and get your hands dirty in ancient soil on an active archaeological site guided by professionals from Tel Aviv University and the IAA(Israel Antiquities Authority).
This 14-day, ALL-Inclusive program is for both first-timers and repeat volunteers. It combines 5 days of volunteer work on an IDF base, 5 days of work at a professional dig site in the City of David, next to Old City Jerusalem, and 4 days of custom touring to out-of-the-way locations in an air-conditioned bus.
Ideal for 18-80+, you get to work alongside archaeology professionals and Israeli students. This unique program also offers a rare and memorable experience performing various tasks directly aid the archaeologists in their important mission.
The City of David,is a world-class archaeological wonderland with rich ancient connections. The Givati Parking Lot dig is the most ancient part of the Canaanite and Israelite City of Jerusalem. The site includes findings from myriad layers of civilization.
All required services are bundled: assignments, transportation, transfers, housing, most food, touring, admissions, tips, etc. This is not a sterile “mission,” but rather an on-site, hands-on working volunteer experience that creates long-lasting memories.
Additional details are available at www.tinyurl.com/vfiplus28
Scheduled Dates and Program Costs (Double Occupancy) for 2020:
Friday, Feb. 28 – Saturday, March 7 – VFI PLUS – 9 days
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
Friday, March 20 – Sunday, April 5 – VFI PLUS ADVANCED – 17 days
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
Sunday, May 3 – Saturday, May 16 – VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY – 14 days
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
Friday, Sept 4 – Saturday, Sept 12 – VFI PLUS – 9 day
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
Sunday, Oct 11 – Saturday, Oct 24 – VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY – 14 days
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
Friday, Nov 6 – Sunday, Nov 22 – VFI PLUS ADVANCED – 17 days
Cost $x,xxx; Single Supplement $xxx
All-Inclusive rates are for a single person, land-only services, and are based on double-occupancy. A Single Supplement is available as shown. Your VFI $125 application fee, your passport, and your roundtrip international airfare to Tel Aviv are additional. EVERYTHING ELSE IS INCLUDED – YOU MERELY HAVE TO SHOW UP
VFI PLUS programs are open to English-speakers world-wide. Most programs run concurrent with scheduled Sar-El volunteer programs.
The enrollment process has 2 major steps; apply to Volunteers for Israel, and register with GIL Travel, and may be done in any order.
- All volunteers apply through regional VFI channels via written application for acceptance. The application form may be downloaded from www.vfi-usa.org and requires a $125 non-refundable application fee.
- Register for your chosen VFI PLUS program with GIL Travel by contacting GIL Travel at 800.223.3855 and ask for Ilana at extension 369, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Non-U.S. English-speaking citizens are welcome and may apply through their home country. See www.sar-el.org/international-contacts
Scheduled Dates for 2021:
VFI PLUS – TBA
VFI PLUS ADVANCED – TBA
VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY – TBA
Preparing For The Program
Why choose VFI?
- 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!
Who qualifies to volunteer?
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.
What if I am traveling solo?
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.
What are the passport and visa requirements?
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.
What about my flight arrangements?
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.
What kind of insurance do I need?
You will need Trip Insurance that covers non-reimbursable travel expenses and possible medical costs. Websites that will allow you to compare costs include Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com. Volunteers have suggested
The ChacotySasson Insurance Company
Myra Altschuler – 1-877-515-9055 – NOTE: Please no calls on Shabbat or Holidays
What does it cost to be a volunteer?
IDF Base Program Expenses
In general, your expenses are covered while you are working 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.
Do I need a cell phone?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:
What should I pack?
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