At age 19, Cleveland-native Eve Marzel decided to make Aliyah and volunteer in Israel through Sherut Leumi, Israel’s National Service. After spending the previous year studying at Midreshet Harova, she decided that dedicating herself to a year of service in Israel would be the first step in her Aliyah journey.

“Like every other Israeli, I knew I wanted to serve the country,” said Marzel, who is now volunteering at Beit Sefer Reishit, a school that brings together children with special needs and mainstream children in the classroom. “It’s the best way to integrate, and it’s a great way to give back.”

In Israel, volunteerism is a core part of the culture. Israeli children spend many hours each week involved in community projects through their youth movements. Through the army or Sherut Leumi, young adults commit a few years of their lives to serving their country. New Olim, who come to Israel with passion, drive, and the desire to contribute to Israeli society, find themselves making a bigger impact than they ever imagined possible.

When Operation Protective Edge broke out last summer, Cynthia Ferman, an Olah from Florida, knew that she wanted to find a way to help out. She teamed up with Nefesh B’Nefesh, and launched a nationwide collection drive for goods for soldiers, as well as toys for children in Southern Israel.

“We moved here for a reason, and we want to contribute as best as we can,” said Cynthia. “When you are overseas, you are often limited to making financial contributions; in Israel you can personally and physically make a substantial difference”.

Within hours after the collection drive was published on Facebook, over 200 people had expressed interest in getting involved–from USY and Bnei Akiva teen groups based in Israel that went shopping for toys at a local Rami Levy to a company that offered free manicures to brides located in the south to Olim throughout Israel who opened their homes up to serve as collection drop-off centers.

A few months later, Olim continued to dedicate a few days each month to volunteer efforts in the South. Through NBN and OneDay, a group of 45 Olim spent one Friday trimming hundreds of vines at a vineyard. Because of the conflict, the farmer had been unable to complete the work that was necessary before the shemita year began.

“I was too old to join the army when I made Aliyah, so this is my way of giving back,” said Julia Szafman, a volunteer who made Aliyah from Connecticut.  “Israel helped me out a lot — with free Ulpan and tons of other benefits.  So, I like to help out whenever I can.”

In Israel’s diverse and dynamic nonprofit sector, people continue to make a difference through their work–often turning their passions into their professions.

While living in Ra’anana and working in the hi-tech sector, Joseph Gitler began noticing unmet poverty in Israel. From corporate cafeterias to big events, there was a bounty of leftover food that was not reaching the people who needed it most. In 2003, Leket started as a one-man operation with Gitler picking up food from smachot and redistributing it. Twelve years later, Leket is an integral part of Israel’s feeding infrastructure. With the help of a staff and over 55,000 volunteers, Leket feeds over 100,000 Israelis each week.

“The can-do spirit of Israel permeates Leket. We saw there was a need for our work, so we said, let’s get our hands dirty and make this a reality.”

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