Volunteering to help Israelis in need

Gayle (2nd from the left) with a group of volunteers at Moshav Yesha on the Gaza border. The volunteers worked in the orchard belonging to the sister of Hamas hostage Shiri Bibas.

Since the brutal attacks on Israel on October 7th last year, many people from all backgrounds have felt compelled to help the country and its people at a time of such great need. And while many have donated money, clothing and other items, for some it’s about doing something meaningful on the ground and ‘getting their hands dirty’.

As Capetonian Gayle Saxe explains, “I really felt the need to do something tangible to help out.” And so she decided to travel to Israel to volunteer her services in whatever way would help. Together with her 25-year-old son, Gayle visited the country for three weeks, spending the first two weeks as part of an organised group of volunteers from around the world. After that, the two Capetonians worked in an orchard within 5km of Gaza, helping to harvest crops that would otherwise go to waste because the usual residents of the area were either killed or taken hostage, or have been evacuated in the wake of the October attacks.

“We went with no expectations but just a willingness to help however we could. We helped with all sorts of things,” Gayle explains. “From packing thousands of food parcels alongside other volunteers, to ironing and sorting clothing and folding towels, we were certainly kept busy with whatever the needs were.”

And, after that work, Gayle and her son made their way to the south of the country where they spent a week working on Moshav Yesha, where the orchards were dripping with unharvested fruit. “It was a truly moving experience for us there because the orchard we worked on belonged to the sister of Shiri Bibas, who was taken hostage by Hamas together with her husband and two red-haired babies. Knowing we could support someone who has lost so much for all the wrong reasons was really meaningful,” she comments.

Gayle encourages others to volunteer. “The need is huge right now,” she says. And, while many of her friends were concerned about safety issues, she felt very safe wherever she went. “There are many security measures in place that it wasn’t an issue for us at all,” she explains.

“Despite the trauma of October 7th, the Israeli spirit remains resilient, and there is a noticeable sense of determination as people continue with their daily lives. Our experience was truly inspiring and instilled in us a significant boost of confidence in the enduring strength of the Jewish nation — a sentiment that wasn’t as readily apparent when relying solely on devastating news reports and social media updates from outside the country,” Gayle concludes.

If you’re keen to get involved in this way, here is some useful information for you:
•  Take a look at the programmes on offer at https://www.sar-el.org
•  To volunteer in the agricultural sector, contact Guy on +972 54-700-9369

• Published in the February 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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