If you’re looking to volunteer in Israel you have a variety of options, most notably volunteering on a Kibbutz, the original and still most widely-available option for those looking to volunteer in Israel. Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a goat herder and want a real desert adventure, I have just the volunteer gig for you…
Oh yes, you’re going to want to head down to a little village called Ezuz, close to the Egyptian border. There you’ll find a little farming community of some 16 families, some running bed and breakfasts, some working in the tourist industry as desert guides, and others working off the land – including Celia Friede and her family, and, of course, her goats.
Celia first settled in Ezuz back in 1983 and ever since has helped grow the little village into a charming little desert retreat. Located in the Negev desert 85 kilometers south of BeerSheva, you’ll need to catch the 044 bus – from BeerSheva – at 7:00 in the evening (it is the only bus that goes to Ezuz – there are other 044 buses that run at other times during the day but they reach nearby villages and kibutzes and then its a bit of a hassle to try and find a ride to Ezuz). Of course, if you’re coming from Tel Aviv, there’s always the bus, train, hired car or taxi to BeerSheva. As is common in Israel, on Fridays and Holidays the 044 bus leaves BeerSheva at 2:00 in the afternoon for Ezuz.
And what about that goat-herding? According to other volunteers who’ve spent time on Ezuz, the work is very easy: the goats go out to the valleys to graze as the sun comes up (after being milked at first light – there is a milking machine) with a shepherd, which is Celia or a volunteer, and return around 9:30 – 10:00am. From then on you’re pretty free to explore the area until the evening milking session around 5 or 6pm (though if the milk season has ended this milking session won’t be needed). In the evening the goats get fed and if there is any other work to be done you might be asked to stick around and help out. Celia also makes goats cheeses and often needs a volunteer to help her.
A very short day, as you can see, with plenty of time for yourself in the middle of the day – much too hot to do too much anyway, bear that in mind, especially in the summer months.
And what about life as a goat-herder? Well, accommodation is supplied in the form of a two-bedroom caravan (including bedding, washing machine, and lots of books), and all food is supplied (you write a list and Celia gets it in BeerSheva on shopping day) – but you cook your own food. All electricity, water and gas is provided and volunteers also get a day off in the middle of the week (as there is the bus out of the village at 6:00 in the morning). if you need additional time off, just let Celia know a couple of days in advance and it won’t be a problem.
As one happy volunteer put it:
The work is incredible – the volunteers usually take out the goats (and some sheep) in the early morning to graze in the desert. It’s not very difficult work and it’s a chance to explore the desert for some hours every morning. The afternoon is free – from about 10-5 or 6, and then there’s the evening milking. It’s a very awesome place. I love it – I came to see if I’d like it and never left for three months.