Bishvil Supports Young Women Sherut Leumi (National Service) Volunteers
Targum Shlishi's Grant Will Help Strengthen Volunteerism in Israel
Bishvil is a recently founded grassroots organization that supports the young women volunteers who come from abroad to serve in Israel’s Sherut Leumi (national service). Bishvil is the only organization devoted exclusively to providing support and enhancing the quality of life for these women, and was founded in response to the fact that the Sherut Leumi system is not equipped to meet the needs of the lone volunteers. Targum Shlishi is supporting Bishvil as it expands its reach to more volunteers and deepens its programmatic support.
Sherut Leumi is a voluntary Israeli national service organization that is an alternative for those individuals who receive exemptions from the country’s obligatory military service and therefore do not serve in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The majority of volunteers who join Sherut Leumi are Orthodox women who join in order to serve their country. Typically, Sherut Leumi volunteers work thirty to forty hours per week for one to two years.
People and politics
Bishvil operates on two levels: of people and of politics. The organizations works in a hands-on, individualized way to support the lone volunteers from abroad, and it also seeks to enact legislation and public policy guidelines to secure equal rights and recognition for the female volunteers, who until now have not been entitled to the support and recognition experienced by lone IDF soldiers.
Among its accomplishments, Bishvil’s work with members of Knesset and the National Service Authority has led to legislation that for the first time officially recognizes the contributions of lone Sherut Leumi volunteers and addresses the inequality of their rights and privileges when compared to IDF volunteers.
An important need
“The number of these non-Israeli women who come by themselves to volunteer for the benefit of Israel is growing every year, and Bishvil is filling the important and until now unmet need of assisting the lone and often vulnerable volunteers and creating a sense of community and belonging,” says Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s founder and director. “We applaud Bishvil’s founder, Shira Lorentz, who saw this problem and took action to enhance the experiences of the National Service volunteers, who are far from home and donating their time and energy to help Israel.”
In 2017 Bishvil supported 1,300 lone volunteers before, during, and after their National Service, a number that has grown substantially from the 300 volunteers that the organization assisted a few short years ago.
These volunteers give a great deal to Israeli society, which has fallen short of providing a welcoming and supportive environment for them, until now. The Sherut Leumi volunteers typically work with hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in disadvantaged areas throughout the country, and often take on very challenging tasks, such as working with at-risk children and families, in special education, emergency health and rescue, educational settings, and more.
Women for women
“Bishvil is a community of women for women. A group of young Israeli women, including myself, saw the challenges faced by our friends from abroad who were lone Sherut Leumi volunteers. These problems were very real and difficult, but they were not unique,” says Shira Lorentz, Bishvil’s founder. “We were shocked into action by the official and unofficial indifference to these volunteers. We began to recruit other young women students to volunteer as ‘big sister’ mentors and advisors for the Sherut Leumi volunteers, and Bishvil was born.”
Bishvil’s mission is to provide the Sherut Leumi volunteer with multi-tiered support, with goals including:
- Emotional, social, and logistical support to help make the volunteers’ experiences rewarding, enjoyable, empowering, and safe
- Effect changes in Israeli law and public policy regarding lone Sherut Leumi volunteers’ rights and the terms of their service
- Provide resources and skills so that the volunteers can make a more significant contribution
- Better integrate the lone volunteers from abroad into the larger community of Israeli-born volunteers, thus encouraging them to remain in Israel and build lives as fully engaged members of Israeli society
- Increase the number of lone volunteers and strengthen the bond they and their families feel to Israel
Goal: Deepen training around volunteerism
Targum Shlishi is supporting Bishvil’s new Volunteer Empowerment Program, a series of workshops and seminars that focuses on helping the volunteers build and strengthen both life management and leadership skills. Workshops, which are led by professionals, are intended to empower volunteers through training in diverse areas, ranging from self-defense to personal finance management to resume writing.
For further information about Bishvil, visit its website.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website.