April 19, 2007 / 1 Iyar 5767
Bradley Armeland, 23, arrived in Israel on August 14th, 2006 the first day of the United Nations’ brokered cease fire between Israel and Lebanon. He is one of hundreds of young, North American volunteers who are helping to complete the next chapter of recovery in Israel’s war torn northern region by directly assisting residents in need.
One of the first days of Brad’s trip was spent at an IDF army base where he assisted soldiers in unloading and reloading their supply carriers. His group made sure that each soldier had all of the necessary materials for their next possible mission in Lebanon.
Brad grew up in Canada and graduated from the University of Western Ontario where he studied political science. He came to Israel as part of the Jewish Agency’s MASA/Israel Journey program that provides young Jewish adults, ages 18 to 30, the opportunity to participate in a long-term volunteer and educational program in Israel. There are nearly 150 individual programs that fall under the MASA umbrella, including Project Otzma in which Brad is taking part. “I’ve worked for everything I’ve gotten, but I have had the privilege to work," says Brad. "I’ve always wanted to give back to the community, especially the Israeli community.”
And give back he has, playing an essential role in the Jewish Agency’s campaign to complete post-war rebuilding and rehabilitation. This past October, Brad traveled to Kiryat Shmona, Israel’s northernmost town that suffered a barrage of Katyusha fire during the war. For one week he volunteered in the effort to rid the area of burnt-down and damaged trees. He also planted new trees in their place. “I definitely contributed a little to the rebuilding in the North," he says proudly.
Brad volunteered in the northern town of Yokneam where he taught English and privately tutored students in grades six through 12. “I loved it. I felt I made a real difference just talking to these kids in English.” He also worked at a greenhouse located on the grounds of a school in Meggido. There he planted vegetables and cared for plants and animals, helping the workers and student volunteers. “It’s a good feeling taking care of the environment and the greenhouse. It’s very important to the school and the kibbutzim.” Indeed, the local kibbutzim use the vegetables produced at the greenhouse and many of their residents are employed there.
As part of the Otzma program, Brad will continue his volunteer work in Tel Aviv for Table to Table, an organization that picks up food that would otherwise be discarded and delivers it to soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
In an article he wrote for the Windsor Jewish Federation newspaper, Bradley talks about his experiences: “All in all, my experiences so far have taught me many lessons, many of which directly relate to the Jewish community’s need to support Israel. Although there are many volunteer programs operating in Israel such as Otzma, Israel is still in dire need of our help, especially in the aftermath of the latest war. Many towns and cities are still in need of repair, and this huge undertaking cannot be accomplished without all of our support. We cannot turn our backs on Israel now or ever, during the good times or the bad. I encourage everyone to give generously to our homeland, and I also encourage you all to someday take part in Project Otzma or any other volunteer program if you haven’t already. All of our efforts towards the upkeep of Israel as a safe and vibrant country demonstrate that we are truly one people.”