What makes them stand out even more in the crowd of volunteers, is that of all of those who have come to assist the army, they are the only group who are not Jews.
Sar-El was founded in 1983 to support Israel, which was then suffering from a shortage of labour. By 2010 the volunteer group boasted over 3,000 participants, of which 85 were Finnish. These days, most of the volunteers come from France or the United States, pay for the trips themselves and also pony up the equivalent of a 68-euro fee to participate.
Becoming more organised in Finland in 2008, 12 Finns headed to Israel that year. Nowadays, with the majority of them middle-aged and retired, the volunteers work in the Israeli army bases, warehouses and utilise service equipment such as communication tools. Work apparel is the Israeli army green field uniform.
The volunteers’ day begins with breakfast at seven and ends at four or five in the afternoon. Their evenings are filled with anything from lectures on the history of Israel to Hebrew lessons. Weekends allow the time to tour various parts of Israel to get to know the country.
It is claimed that the IDF have saved over a million dollars each year by using these volunteers. The volunteer’s work helps to release the soldiers in service to complete other tasks.
Member Kalevi Waris joined the Sar-El as a volunteer for the first time in 2003.
“We want to show solidarity with Israel and to stand alongside them,” Waris stated, in the Helsingin Sanomat article. “It’s the mere love of adventure.”