Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A volunteer for Israel
on July 19, 2008
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.