On a trip to Amsterdam a few years ago, my mother had the misfortune to encounter another American tourist, of 70-some years of age, who was apparently not content to sit back and enjoy her holiday and instead insisted on trying to recruit people to volunteer on Israeli army bases.
Having recently taken part in a programme organised by the American outfit Volunteers for Israel (VFI), the woman swore it was the opportunity of a lifetime: free room and board, a worthy cause - and you didn’t even have to be Jewish!
My mother chased her off but kept the slip of paper on which the woman had written the VFI website as well as that of its Israeli partner Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel, which places international volunteers on bases and oversees their activities.
VFI advertises itself as a “nonprofit, non-political, non-sectarian organisation” - although it’s a bit difficult to think of anything more political and sectarian than material support for a Zionist military dedicated to ethnic cleansing and frequent massacres of civilians.
The website explains that the program started in 1982 “during the first war with Lebanon, when Israeli farmers in the [occupied] Golan Heights faced the prospect of losing their crops".
The cause of the agricultural predicament: “Most able-bodied men and women were called up for army reserve.” The solution: bring in volunteers from the US to “harvest crops and save the economy". The result: “More than 600 volunteers responded immediately, and the crops were saved.”
Plus, the experience was “so personally rewarding and successful” that it spawned a whole volunteer enterprise. The Sar-El website notes that as of 2010 the project had “brought in over 132,000 volunteers".
Meanwhile, the Golan crops may have been saved, but the same couldn’t be said for some 20,000 victims of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the great majority of them civilians. It bears mentioning, too, that this was not in fact the “first war” on that country - the able-bodied men and women of the Israeli armed forces having performed a similar routine four years earlier, albeit with a lower casualty count. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.