Year Coursers Saving Lives

by Yael Sahar, Bat Yam Coordinator
Young Judaea Year Course in Israel

Today we are finishing our first week of  Marva and MADA prep week.  First, let me translate and explain.  Marva is an eight week simulation of IDF basic training held in Southern Israel and MADA, short for Magen David Adom, is the Israeli counterpart of the Red Cross.  Year Coursers in Bat Yam have the option of signing up for one of these options instead of traditional volunteering in Bat Yam or Yemin Orde.  Because of the High Holidays, both MADA and Marva participants have a week in their schedule in which their friends are already volunteering, but their programs have yet to start.  To some this may seem like a challenge, but we see it as an opportunity to impart our shared values on the participants and to give back to Bat Yam.

These chanichim have been doing social action projects throughout the week focusing on four different areas of need in the local community.  Several participants have been volunteering in a soup kitchen and a second group has been teaching about Sukkot in both English and Hebrew in local schools.  Still another team has been working in a soap factory run by and for people with psychological needs, while our “Extreme Home Makeover” group has been painting and fixing houses renovating gardens, and painting benches.  In addition to all of this, we had a fundraiser activity in which the chanichim made chocolate graham cracker desserts and sold them, raising over 200 Shekels for a local charity.

While this past week’s work would be justified on its own, there was a second reason that we asked our MADA and Marva volunteers to engage in these projects.  A number of times this week we have sat in our groups and used our activities as a trigger to discuss issues of social action, volunteerism, and community work in Israel, in the Jewish tradition, and in the broader world.  While Marva is a valuable and truly Israeli experience and our soon-to-be-medics will give back to the community daily by literally saving lives, we don’t want them to miss out on the service learning experience that has been central to Young Judaea’s core mission since the movement’s inception.  It is not only the act of helping, contributing, and giving, but the lessons behind it that are important.  As the director of Bat Yam programs I get to see hundreds of examples of true giving from our Year Course and Amirim participants, but I must say that I am particularly proud of the work of our MADA and Marva participants this week.