There are so many brilliant volunteering opportunities in Israel. From helping with marine conservation to learning how to build environmentally friendly buildings, teaching English to supporting wildlife conservation efforts in the desert, here are some of the top ways to volunteer in the Holy Land.
I spent an autumn volunteering in the apple orchard of a kibbutz near the Lebanese border, and it was an amazing experience. On my days off, I’d join my new friends on trips to the cities -- Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Safed. And at the end of my apple-picking stint, I took the chance to travel around Israel, and to go snorkeling in the Red Sea in Egypt for a month. I’ll never forget the experience.
It might be surprising that a country as relatively small as Israel could have a large diversity of volunteer abroad opportunities, but it's true. To illustrate, here are seven of the most common volunteer opportunities in Israel, and examples to help you start to choose which one is right for you.
1. Working on a Kibbutz
Kibbutzim are rural communes that have dotted the country since the ‘20s. Volunteering is organized by the extremely well-run Kibbutz Program Center (KPC) in Tel Aviv. The kinds of jobs you might end up doing include picking fruit, helping to prepare meals for hundreds in the kitchen, basic cleaning duties, setting up the communal dining hall for meals, and more.
In return you’ll get food, board, a little pocket money and a couple of days off each week to explore the local area with your new friends.
If this sounds like the program for you, here’s more information on volunteering on an Israeli kibbutz.
2. Marine Conservation
The southern tip of Israel is lapped by a beautiful patch of Red Sea shoreline. Volunteer from the little city of Eilat and you can help protect one of the world’s richest coral reefs. Home to butterfly fish and parrot fish, sea lilies and more, the work you’ll do to help protect the Coral Beach Nature Reserve really depends on the time of year.
In high season, you might be cleaning Eilat’s main beach so plastic bags and trash doesn’t end up in the water. You might also be cleaning buoys, which is much more exciting than it sounds. As you remove the build-up of algae, endless schools of fish come up to feed around you! Of course, this kind of volunteer work requires that you’re a strong swimmer who’s comfortable with waves, tides, and currents. Once you’re done with your duties? There’ll always be time to go scuba diving among the coral.
Here’s an example marine conservation program in the south of Israel.
3. Desert Wildlife Conservation
Southern Israel is home to a desert. More than 6,178 square miles of desert, to be exact. It’s awesome, and it’s home to wildlife that includes oryx, spotted leopards, wild cats, foxes, hyenas, and owls.
You can volunteer among the salt flats and sand in a small nature reserve dedicated to protecting endangered desert animals. Types of duties could include preparing food and feeding the animals, cleaning their habitats, assisting the park rangers in their daily rounds, and helping with wildlife observations.
It can be extremely hot in Southern Israel between June and September. That’s especially true of the desert, so you may want to skip the summer months for this kind of volunteering. Here’s an article that will give you a better idea of volunteering with desert wildlife conservation in Israel.
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4. Eco Building
If you’re interested in sustainable living and learning new skills, helping out in an eco-lodge resort could be for you. With this kind of volunteer work, you’d mostly be helping with hospitality: greeting guests, cooking, and cleaning.
But there will also be the chance to garden and to help with mud work — creating sculptures, renovating existing buildings, creating new benches, and more. And when you’re all finished with work for the day and night begins to fall, it’s time to hang out around the campfire and look up at the Milky Way overhead.
Here’s more information on eco building volunteering projects in Israel.
5. Teaching English to At-Risk Youth
Not having a good grasp of the English language can be a real socioeconomic hurdle for Israelis living in isolated communities. Those communities just don’t have the opportunities to meet native English speakers. That’s where volunteers come in and help provide a real difference.
Working with a nonprofit like Ma'ase Olam-Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, college grads can work one-to-one and with small groups of students. They serve as classroom assistants and help provide English-based activities in schools and activity centers.
Here’s more information on volunteering with at-risk communities in Israel.
6. Helping out in a Vineyard
Israel is wine country. Really.
There’s a nonprofit that helps Christian volunteers serve Jewish farmers in the Holy Land. A typical week might involve harvesting grapes, olives, or pomegranates for four days. Then there’ll be a couple of days dedicated to visiting historical sites, and a Saturday of well-deserved rest.
Here’s a bit more insight into volunteering in the farms and vineyards of Israel's biblical heartland.
7. Volunteering in a Bakery
Just to prove how diverse the volunteer opportunities are in this country of 8.5 million, here’s an insight into interning in a vegan bakery in the buzzing city of Tel Aviv. Five days a week, you’ll assist with creating innovative vegan desserts -- think making batter, measuring ingredients (no eggs included!), packaging pastries, and more. On your days off, the beach and bars of Israel’s hippest city beckon.
If you’re looking to take a real skill back home, and you already love cooking and baking, a bakery internship could be for you.
When it comes to volunteering in Israel, choose your own adventure -- desert or the Red Sea, rural kibbutz or big city. It's really up to you!