do kibbutzim need volunteers?
Basically there are more jobs to do on a kibbutz than there
are people to do them. Also Israel has a very demanding national
service policy so there are often times when lots of men or
women have to leave the kibbutz to do their national or reserve
service. The members of the kibbutz fill these gaps but it still
leaves a lot of vacancies in other jobs.
kind of job might I be doing?
You could be doing anything from washing dishes to working on
a fish farm to picking bananas to milking cows. Generally speaking
the jobs that volunteers do are mostly, manual, unskilled and
often boring tasks...could be in a factory or cotton fields
or even orange groves. You usually start at 5-6am with some
very strong coffee, then work out of the kibbutz in the fields
until breakfast at 8, back to work at 9 till lunch at noon,
another hour tidying up...then home. The good news is if you
don't like a job you can request a change. When you arrive you'll
probably have little choice in what you do, but after being
there a short time you'll find you can negotiate a better job.
You might get lucky and find a great job you want to keep doing
(like I did as a gardener -- out all day with my own tractor!).
much will it cost me?
If you organize it yourself all you'll pay is the cost of your
flight to Israel and a small administration and insurance fee
to the kibbutz
volunteers office in Tel Aviv where you'll need to register
before going to your kibbutz.
you do use another organization make sure they are reputable.
hours will I work?
Depends on the job! You'll normally work between 6 and 8 hours
a day, six days a week. Saturday will be your day off. Sunday
is a normal working day in Israel. If you're working outside
during the summer months you'll probably start early in the
morning (sometimes 4am) to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Factory jobs usually start at 7am while jobs in the kitchen
start around 6am. You'll put in a few hours then break for an
hour to have breakfast. Lunch is served from 11.30am till 2pm.
the accommodation like?
Erm...are you sure you want to hear this bit? Unfortunately
volunteer accommodation tends to be fairly basic. It's considered
normal for a volunteer to share his/her room with at least one
other person or sometimes two. Some of the rooms have their
own shower room/toilet; others are shared depending on the kibbutz.
It's all a bit of pot luck when it comes to your accommodation.
There are volunteers leaving all the time and most of them want
to leave their own little mark so you might find the walls of
your room covered in graffiti. You can modify your room with
posters and beer labels to make it look a little bit more homely.
If the graffiti is so bad, ask the volunteer leader for a pot
of paint and do a bit of D.I.Y. You can also move rooms if there's
enough space available.
the age restrictions?
Officially you have to be between the ages of 18-35.
long can I go for?
Nowadays you can stay on a kibbutz for anything from
two months to six months. Some kibbutzim ask for a small deposit
when you first arrive that is returned to you if you stay longer
than two months. When you first arrive in Israel you'll be given
a visa for three months and this can be renewed when it runs
out. It's very difficult to get a visa renewed after that, so
you'd need to leave the country then return. If you do leave
Israel (i.e. to Egypt) on your return you'll only receive a
visa that matches the time you were out of the country. Obviously
they can't keep you there if you hate it so you can leave anytime
I have to go with a group?
No, you can go solo if that's your preference, however
the days of just turning up at a kibbutz and asking if they
have any places for volunteers seem to be over. If you are arriving
in Israel before you've organized a place you'll need to report
to the kibbutz
volunteers office in Tel Aviv. They'll ask you where you
want to go, take some shekels from you for administration and
insurance then send you on your way with a map and some directions
to the central bus station.
much will I get paid?
Nothing. Just remember that you are a volunteer
on the kibbutz. You won't get paid as such but you'll receive
a weekly allowance on a type of credit card that can be spent
in the kibbutz shop or pub. Some kibbutzim also give you free cigarettes,
aerogrammes, condoms and candles. After a while you can also
ask for a pay rise!
there any other benefits for volunteers?
Your work clothing, food, laundry and bedding is all
provided for you. Most kibbutzim stock the communal volunteers
fridges with a weekly supply of yoghurt, salami, cheese and
fruit. You can take part in any of the social/cultural activities
that are often organized by the kibbutz. Most kibbutzim have
a pub that is subsidized for members and volunteers, and also
a swimming pool. You'll get an additional two days off per month
that you can save for a longer break. There's usually a day
trip every month and every three months the kibbutz will
organize a three-day trip for the volunteers. This could be
beach bumming in Eilat and the desert, camping out in Galilee
or visiting Jerusalem.
the weather like?
Israel has long hot summers and short mild winters. December-March
are the rainy months but if you're from Northern Europe you'll
find it still rains less than in your home country. It can also
snow in Israel. There was a serious snowstorm in January 2000
that affected even the hills of the Negev Desert in the South
of Israel although the biggest problem was the traffic congestion
caused by the Tel Aviv population driving out of the city for
snowseeing tours! The north is the coolest area but even there
it will get as hot as 32c in summer. Jerusalem is built up a
hill so it can get cold in winter time. The south is very hot
and has extremely mild winters. The resort of Eilat on the Red
Sea is a winter playground for people escaping the European
weather. The Jordan valley can also be surprisingly warm in
As far as I can tell, there's not one! Some people don't like
the food in the dining room, others have a problem sharing a
room with strangers (though they're not strangers for long!).
You might think the rooms are very basic and sometimes the members
may be a little distant or even hostile to volunteers. Remember
they've seen volunteers come and go for many years. If you take
time to get to know them they'll do the same in return. You
might even make a friend from work and be invited for tea in
the afternoon. If you can learn to live with these things you'll
have the best time of your life. Guaranteed! There are still
people I keep in touch with from my two years as a kibbutz volunteer
in Israel -- members and volunteers.
At the moment there is renewed violence and tension in
the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, the threat of
terrorism and civil unrest is something that the Israelis have
to deal with on a daily basis. It is highly unlikely you will
experience any dangerous situations as long as you follow local
advice about where and where not to travel. Israel lives in
a type of siege mentality. You'll see armed soldiers everywhere.
You may be alarmed by this at first but you'll soon get used
to it. Security is very important all over Israel including
the kibbutzim. When you arrive at your kibbutz you may be surprised
by the perimeter fence and watchtowers. They're there to keep
terrorists out, not you in! There are bomb shelters throughout
Israel. Often they are used for holding parties or discos (and
occasionally hiding from the bombs of surrounding countries).
Before you arrive in Israel you'll get the pleasure of being
quizzed by Israeli security staff at the airport or port of
departure. Don't consider making flippant remarks along
the lines of "oh yeah, the bomb's in my other bag."
If you do, you'll find they won't share your sense of humour.
Basically because of the prevalence of soldiers and vigilant
civilians Israel is safe to travel in and visit. A word of warning
though: don't change money on the streets no matter how good
the vendor's rate of exchange may be, you're sure to get ripped
off. You're advised to only use registered taxis because unlicensed
ones may rip you off, beat you, steal from you or worse. You
might be offered some dope in the old city of Jerusalem. Don't
even be tempted. Often the police have paid these guys so they
can catch you in the act. Unlike Europe, there are still stiff
penalties for soft drugs possession and use. However, crime
is relatively low.