Preparing For The Program

  • You benefit from our nearly 40 years of experience sending American volunteers to Israel.
  • By living and working with Israelis, you become an “insider” and discover Israel in ways that no tourist can.
  • Our year-round programs are relatively low cost and fit your schedule.
  • You’ll meet and form friendships with people from all over the world who share your love and concern for Israel.
  • VFI’s IRS status as a 501(c)(3)–a not-for-profit organization-means your application fee and some of your transportation costs may be tax deductible. Be sure to speak with your accountant.
  • Our experienced regional representatives have visited Israel many times. We are readily available to answer your questions and share tips about travel and sightseeing. All you have to do is ask!
  • We provide a take-along Program Handbook that will serve as a handy resource guide throughout your stay.
  • You will get more than you give, knowing you’ve made a personal difference–and you’ll have fun too!

    The IDF program is open to:

    • volunteers 17 (16 with a parent or guardian) and older. There is no maximum age limit.
    • those who meet the physical and psychological requirements outlined in our Application.
    • both Jews and non-Jews.

    Other Special Programs have their own requirements. Please consult the individual program website.

    Our IDF base Program is well suited for those traveling solo. Because it is a group experience, you will meet and form friendships with your fellow volunteers from diverse backgrounds and locations. Volunteers tend to travel together on weekends, so no one need worry about being left out. Your madricha (English-speaking group leader) can help with weekend plans.

    If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

    To enter Israel, you must have a passport valid for at least six months after your departure date. Therefore, for a typical 3-week program, you should have 7+ months remaining on your passport.

    For most U.S. citizens, a tourist visa is not required unless you plan to stay in Israel longer than 90 days.

    After you are accepted to the program by BOTH VFI AND THEN SAR-EL, you are responsible for booking your flight to Israel and filling out the Travel Form that is part of your application package. We recommend that you consult with a local travel agent or check online for a complete list of the airlines that fly into Ben Gurion Airport.

    Volunteers are required to have insurance that will cover any medical expenses incurred while on the Sar-El program, including coverage for COVID-19 while in Israel. Check with your U.S. insurance company first; many will reimburse you — upon your return — for out-of-pocket expenses abroad. Medicare will not cover you in Israel.

    IDF Base Option Expenses

    In general, your expenses are covered during volunteer periods on the IDF base. Weekend expenses (Thursday afternoon-Sunday morning) are not.

    Expenses covered by the VFI/Sar-El Program include:

    • housing and meals during the volunteer work week
    • ground transportation from the airport to base at approved arrival times and to a central location at the end of each program
    • work clothes on military bases
    • transportation for Sar-El sponsored excursions, if offered
    • evening lectures and cultural programs on base

    Expenses paid by the volunteer:

    • VFI-USA application fee: $125 for adults; $75 for volunteers returning within 12 months; and $55 for full-time students
    • Sar-El Application fee ($100 USD)
    • round-trip airfare to Israel
    • expenses before and after the program
    • ground transportation on weekends and for final departure from Ben Gurion
    • weekend accommodations, meals and other expenses
    • pocket money for personal needs
    • health insurance coverage (required)

    At hotels, museums, shops, and on public transportation, always ask if a Sar-El discount is available.

    Yes! For your personal security and convenience, you must have a cell phone with international coverage that includes Israel during your stay in Israel.

    On the IDF Base Program, you will be given work clothes to wear during the day. In the evening, casual attire–jeans, t-shirts, sweaters–are appropriate, depending on the season.

    Also bring clothes suitable for your weekend plans. You will receive a detailed packing list of needed supplies from your regional representative and Sar-El.

    On The Program

    VFI is a nonprofit organization chartered in the U.S. that partners with Israel’s Sar-El organization. VFI recruits, processes, and assists volunteers prior to their departure for Israel.

    Send all applications and fees for the programs to VFI.

    Sar-El is an Israeli nonprofit that administers the IDF Base Program in Israel.

    Approximately two weeks prior to the start date of your program, you will receive an email from Sar-El outlining INSTRUCTIONS FOR MEETING IN ISRAEL, which will provide details about arrival times, directions to the Meeting Place in Ben-Gurion Airport, and other important information. In Israel, Sar-El representatives (a madricha) will greet you at the airport and lead you to a bus that will take you and other volunteers to your base. The madricha will explain the daily routine, help you get your work clothes, and show you around. You will probably have lunch or dinner after you arrive at the base.

    Before you travel, check with your Regional Representative for any last-minute changes.

    No. You do not need to speak Hebrew for the IDF Base program. Your group will be assigned English-speaking soldier(s) who will be responsible for you at all times and who will translate as needed. You will learn some basic Hebrew terms to use on base, so be sure to approach the soldiers and try out your new vocabulary.

    Be prepared for an adventure! Living conditions are much more Spartan than you are accustomed to at home, but you and your fellow volunteers will have fun adapting and finding ways to make the barracks more comfortable. Detailed information about base conditions, meals, and laundry can be found in our VFI Program Handbook.

    The following policies are strictly enforced:

    • no proselytizing
    • no drug and alcohol use
    • no photography on base without permission

    On IDF Base Programs, you will be off the base from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning. During that time, you are free to visit friends and family, explore Israel, and spend time with your new VFI friends.

    Some conveniently located, moderately priced hotels in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities offer discounts to Sar-El volunteers. Always ask. There are also inexpensive hostels throughout Israel. NEW! On a few select dates, VFI may offer VFI PLUS, combining two weeks on a base with guided tours before the program., on weekends, and after the program.

    Check the Schedule. 

    For program details, click here.

    VFI PLUS offers a unique opportunity for both first-class touring and volunteer services.

    Reside and work on a military base. Work on an amazing dig and find ancient artifacts. Tour uncommon sights in Israel in air-conditioned style. VFI PLUS Programs are open to English speakers worldwide. They are all-inclusive with all housing, most meals, all transfers and transportation, all touring and admittance fees, work assignments, and tips included. You just have to show up! Click here to learn more.

    After You Return

    VFI is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. We are supported financially through Application fees, donations, the sale of VFI Tribute Cards, and other items.

    Visit our Support VFI page to see how you can help.

    A hard-working corps of dedicated alumni throughout the country also supports us. They give their time, energy, and enthusiasm to help us recruit and assist new volunteers. You’ll never find a more generous group of people. You can be one of them!

    Yes, thank you. Make your check payable to Volunteers for Israel and mail it to:

    Volunteers for Israel
    Park West Finance Station
    P.O. Box 20616
    New York, New York 10025

    Or you can also pay with PayPal, Zelle, and Venmo.    

    Contact VFIFinanSecy@aol.com for instructions.

    Due to VFI’s IRS status as a 501(c)(3) a not-for-profit organization, your application fees and some of your transportation costs may be tax-deductible. Consult your accountant.

    In the past, some colleges offered credit for Sar-El programs. Check with your college’s Study Abroad Office.

    First, help us improve our programs by filling out our brief Post-Program Questionnaire when you return from the program. Feedback is very helpful. Check our website regularly for the latest VFI news, and attend alumni events in your area. Contact your Regional Manager and offer to be an Ambassador, and help with a VFI presentation or booth at events.