Longtime volunteer at Israeli military bases to speak


What would motivate a successful corporate lawyer to trade in his comfortable life in America to volunteer for manual labor on Israeli military bases for three weeks every year? For Mark Werner, an ardent Zionist and the son of a Holocaust survivor, it's a personal way to show support for Israel.

On Nov. 11 on Zoom, Werner, author of “A Passion for Israel: Adventures of a Sar-el Volunteer,” will recount tales of an enriching volunteer experience like no other.

Werner is the national president of Volunteers for Israel, the organization that enables him and other Americans to serve as civilian volunteers on Israeli military bases. During the program, he will be joined by some of the 92 other Rhode Island volunteers.

Werner will tell about his 14 stints on Israeli military bases from 2006 to 2019.

In his book, he describes what life is like for volunteers on Israeli army bases, starting with his own experiences – from working through a desert sandstorm to dealing with a scorpion in his bunk to taking refuge in a bomb shelter during a Palestinian missile attack.

Through simple activities such as packing kitbags and medical supplies for soldiers, filling sandbags and assembling tank antennas, the volunteers work hard to contribute to the defense of Israel. The book also tells how a camaraderie develops between the volunteers and Israeli soldiers as they work side by side, and provides a roadmap for others to show their support for Israel.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of “Jewish Literacy” and “A Code of Jewish Ethics,” says, “Mark Werner is a born storyteller, and ‘A Passion for Israel’ is a continually insightful and compelling tale of a man who set out to do good and succeeded. A poignant memoir, ‘A Passion for Israel’ is a sort of ‘City Slickers’ with a Jewish twist that will tug at the heart of any committed Jew.”

The Midwest Book Review called the book “an impressively written, exceptionally well presented and impressively informative memoir that blends Israeli military history and elements of Israel travel ….”

A retired lawyer in Raleigh, North Carolina, this is Mark Werner’s third literary foray. He also wrote a book describing his first four volunteer experiences, “Army Fatigues: Joining Israel’s Army of International Volunteers,” as well as editing his father’s Holocaust memoir, “Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II,” by Harold Werner.

To RSVP and receive a link to the Zoom program, on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., please visit jewishallianceri.org/werner.

“A Passion for Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer” is available for purchase from Amazon and Gefen Publishing.

The free program is part of the monthly Israeli Culture Series, held the second Wednesday of each month, and Behind the Book: A Visiting Author Series. The event is made possible by a partnership with the Jewish Book Council.

For more information, contact Or Cohen at ocohen@jewishallianceri.org or 401-864-3786.

LARRY KATZ (lkatz@jewishallianceri.org) is the director of Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.