Preparing For The Program

  • You benefit from our more than 30 years of experience sending American volunteers to Israel.
  • By living and working with Israelis, you become an “insider” and discover Israel as 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 written for our volunteers. It 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 packet
  • 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 madrichah 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, you are responsible for booking your flight to Israel and filling out the Travel Form that is part of your application package. Of course, you will want to compare prices. 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. 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.

Volunteers who need additional medical coverage or want travel insurance often use the following companies:

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
weekend accommodations in the Sar-El hostel in Jaffa, space permitting

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.
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.

For your personal security and convenience, we strongly recommend that you have a cell phone during your stay in Israel. If you need to rent a phone, you may contact these companies recommended by our volunteers:

On the IDF Base Program, you will be given work clothes for 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.

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

After you are accepted to a VFI program, you will receive a letter titled 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. You will also receive a Program Handbook with further information. Also, check with your regional representative for any last minute changes.

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 photographing 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, tour, and spend time with your new VFI friends.

Some conveniently located, moderately priced hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offer discounts to Sar-El volunteers. Click here for a list of suggested hotels. You can also get the list from your regional representative or the Sar-El coordinator. In addition, the IDF operates a no-cost hostel, Beit Oded, in Jaffa. You may stay there if space permits. Your group leader (madrich/madrichah) on the base must be notified of your intention to stay at Beit Oded early in the week.

NEW! On a few select dates, VFI may offer VFI PLUS, which combines two weeks on a base combined with guided tours before the program, on weekends, and after a program. For details, see:

Check the Schedule for dates and tell your regional representative if you want to join a VFI Plus program

VFI PLUS is a unique personal opportunity to both tour and provide volunteer services. Immerse yourself in Israeli culture by volunteering to provide needed civilian services to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).  Is working at a biblical archaeological dig in Old-City Jerusalem on your bucket list?

Reside and work on a military base.  Find ancient artifacts.  Tour uncommon sights in Israel in air-conditioned style.  The VFI PLUS Programs are open to English-speakers world-wide.  All VFI PLUS programs are All-Inclusive and include all housing, most meals, all transfers and transportation, all touring and admittance fees, work assignments, and tips.    You merely have to show up!

Brief Program Descriptions

The VFI PLUS Program – A  new 9-day All-Inclusive program that combines one-week volunteering on an IDF base with custom touring of unique sites.  The program starts with a Friday evening welcoming dinner followed by touring on Saturday. The volunteer IDF work week starts on Sunday and ends Thursday at noon.  Touring resumes Thursday, Friday and all-day Saturday, ending at the airport for an evening flight home.

  • This short program is suitable for anyone with limited time yet seeking to make a difference with a unique, enriching, quick-paced insider experience in Israel that creates memories.

The VFI PLUS ADVANCED Program – Our highly rated 17-day All-Inclusive program combines volunteering on an IDF base for 2 weeks with custom, quick-paced touring of unique, feature-rich  sites.  The program starts with a Friday evening Shabbat dinner followed by touring on Saturday.  The IDF volunteer work week starts on Sunday through Thursday at noon.  Touring resumes Thursday, Friday and all-day Saturday.  Returning to base on Sunday, the second work week ends noon on Thursday when custom touring resumes until Sunday evening, ending at the airport. 

  • This extended program is ideal for first-time and repeat visitors seeking a unique, enriched, insider experience, balanced with quick-paced intensive touring.

The VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY Program – This 14-day All-Inclusive program combines volunteering on an IDF base with volunteering on a biblical archaeological dig in the City of David in Jerusalem, accompanied by custom touring of unique sites.  The IDF volunteer work week starts on Sunday and ends Thursday at noon, followed by touring Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Starting Sunday through Thursday, volunteer work begins at the archaeological dig in the City of David in conjunction with Tel Aviv University and includes lectures and exclusive field trips.  Work concludes on Thursday and touring resumes until Sunday evening, ending at the airport.

  • This program is suitable for first-timers and repeat visitors with an interest in volunteering at both an IDF base and a biblical professional archaeology site, enhanced by quick-paced touring.

Learn More

After You Return

VFI is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. We are supported financially through application fees, donations, and 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

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 have offered credit for Sar-El programs. Check with your college’s Study Abroad Office.

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