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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I was initially skeptical. Having lived in Israel for over thirty years I had the sense that a book about volunteers often in the age of pension who come to volunteer for stints of a few weeks , could not be something very serious. I was wrong. Mark Werner in telling of four stints of volunteering he did at Army bases, and in one case at a naval base revealed to me yet another surprising and encouraging chapter in the saga of contemporary Israel.
Werner begins by tracing his family background focusing on his father, who fought as a partisan against the Nazis. Werner tells of his unusual childhood growing up in an agricultural community in New Jersey most of the members of which were Jewish Holocaust survivors. He speaks of the Zionist education he received, and this certainly is central to the decision he made as a lawyer working in Raleigh , Virginia to volunteer for pro bono work in Israel.
The progam he is a part of is called Sar- El. It involves people from all over the world coming to work at Army bases, doing repair and maintenance work which frees up soldiers for other duties. Werner says in the concluding section of the book that a major reason for 'volunteering' is to show the people of Israel that they are not alone, not abandoned, even when the world's media is distorting their story, turning moral reality upside down, and making them the 'villains' of the Middle East conflict. Werner also gives other reasons for the volunteering including the widening of his own personal world, the meeting many new acquaintances. There is too the realization of a long- time dream of giving something to Israel.
The book itself is a delight to read. Werner's descriptions of the many different volunteers he meets , of the young Israeli soldiers who are often his guides are clear and interesting. The book is a kind of journal and includes also a picture of what is going on in the overall life of Israel at the time. It illustrates extraordinarily well the constant security challenges Israel faces.
Werner himself appears as a very good and conscienscious volunteer, a hard and proud worker. He also in the course of his volunteering uses time - off to meet relatives he has in Israel, and tells their stories. Werner is an optimist, but at the same time a strong realist. If he sees sordid realities he frankly depicts them, and makes no effort at whitewashing them.
Werner's strong and positive character shines through this work.
His writing of this book is as I understand it a continuation of his volunteering and contributing to Israel.
Those of us who have lived in Israel for many years owe Werner and dedicated volunteers like him our gratitude.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2008
We are given a view of Israel from the inside, and at ground level. The book isn't dramatic in content, but it can be in impact - if you are interested in this inside view. I particularly enjoyed it when Mark describes or discusses some place in Israel where I have been, or mentions the impact of some event (unfortunately, often bad) which I remember from the news. I feel much better informed about life in Israel, about the impact of events on the population, and on many of the controversies affecting the people and the country. Well, I also was quite interested in the material about how the armed forces operate, again from the inside. The time Mark spent off-base with friends and relatives further added to this inside view. So I've very pleased I've read this book, and I'm rating it based on its doing for me what it's intended to do.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2008
I found the book inspiring and fascinating. All characters are so vivid - I've enjoyed reading about the author's experience at the Israeli bases as well as his weekends with the family and friends. I came away feeling more connected to Israelis, their simple and yet very complicated life and admiration for their strength. Liked every bit of it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2008
Overall, a fascinating, insightful and entertaining read. In Army Fatigues, Mark Werner recounts his experiences with the Volunteers for Israel program. This journal highlights Mr. Werner's personal interactions with the young Israeli soldiers, older officers, and other international volunteers as he performs basic support services and maintenance needs for the Israel Defense Force. Mr. Werner's experiences offer a unique perspective within the historical, social, cultural, and political climate of the times; a perspective that is not found anywhere else.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2008
The writing made you feel that you were actually there, particpating with the writer in volunteer efforts so critical to the Israeli Army. With a preliminary understanding of the author's connection to the Holocaust (father was a survivor and freedom fighter) and an overview of what is actually happening today, you'll come away feeling more deeply involved in Israel's survival and the strength of its people. I hope there are more books to come from this talented writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2008
A member of a successful law firm in America, Mark Werner felt an obligation to come to the aid of an Israel beset by hostile neighbors. "Army Fatigues: Joining Israel's Army of International Volunteers" is Mark Werner's passionate memoir of his time volunteering in Israel's army, despite his prosperity in America. Enraged by the second Palestinian Intifada, he volunteered. He speaks on why some people give their time and risk their lives for this as well as reflecting on his time. "Army Fatigues" is a compelling read about one man's decision to sacrifice a comfortable life in service to the Jewish nation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2008
An inside look into volunteering on an Israeli Army Logistic base and Mark Werner's personal experance in Israel with family and iteracting
with other volunteers from around the world. A view as a visitor not as a tourist seeing Israel. An insite of Israel as it is without the window dressing most tourist see. I enjoyed reading Mark werners book for a better view of Israel
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2008
A wonderful day to day account of a volunteer's experience with Sar El in Israel. Mark does a great job of weaving history, current events and his experiences volunteering. This book is a must read for anyone considering volunteering in Sar El.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2008
Inspiring, fascinating. The author and his volunteer buddies true Tzadikim. My Jewish pride lifted a knotch higher by reading
this book.
Teri N. N.J.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2009
Our daughter just got back from her first Sar-El trip in July 2009, with the International Youth Group Program of Sar-El. She had travelled to Israel the year before with us on a tour of the Holy Land, and we were fortunate to be able to let her go this past summer.

The descriptions in the book of the groups' work and the interaction with the young soldiers are very reminiscient of our daughter's description of her 3-week tour. She was able to spend one weekend with her Sar-El friends in Tel Aviv, and was blessed to be invited by the family of one of the IDF soldiers to spend Shabbat weekend.

This is a must-read book for all of those persons who are considering making a trip to Israel for Sar-El, or even if you just want to know how people are helping Israeli's protect their right to live in their historical (and present day) homeland.
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