We arrived in Israel on aliyah as pensioners fully aware that mature, retired, English speakers, looking for half-day jobs were unlikely to be successful in their quest. However the opportunities to volunteer were endless and this is the direction that we took.
Following on an introductory lecture where the aims and aspirations of ESRA were clarified, I joined the volunteer brigade, where my interests and experience guided me specifically to ESRA MAGAZINE. Founded in 1979, the few sheets of printed information sent out in its early days have developed into the superior magazine we are privileged to enjoy today. There is a veritable army of volunteers that contribute to this high class periodical, and supportive advertisers who account for its financing. With the phenomenal advance of technology in our lifetimes the World Wide Web has become a commonplace tool of information, and ESRA MAGAZINE has its own website - www.esra-magazine.com which offers all the articles that have been published over the past three years in this periodical. It was here, in addition to writing articles, that my services slotted in. I am one of a number of writers who are given articles to read and condense into 30-40 words. The same day that the newest magazine is distributed, the précis for each article in that current edition is published on the web as well as the articles themselves. It makes for easy and up-to-date reference on articles, projects, authors and advertisers.
A few weeks ago, I received a note on my computer requiring me to estimate how much time I spent in volunteering for ESRA, as this was an annual requirement of the Registrar of Nonprofit Organizations. And here the fun began. "Sounds easy enough", I thought. As I had just received a request to write certain blurbs from Magazine no.147 of December 2008 to continue with the project to update the website, I would, for the first time, time myself while doing each blurb. I would do a simple calculation averaging out the time it took - 20 blurbs a month was a fair estimate, easy as pie. And in fact that is the method I used to calculate my contribution resulting in an estimate of approximately 3 ½ hours a month. The real figure is very different. Let me explain.
Whether it be time constraints or impatience or purely human nature - when I receive my new ESRA MAGAZINE I am really keen to browse through it as soon as possible. I may stop to read something of specific interest in that first look at the new edition, or I might make a mental note to read one or other article as soon as I have the time to do so which is generally that night in bed before going to sleep. I don’t believe I ever read any one magazine from cover to cover. However, given the task of doing a blurb or a précis on specific articles, I often read each designated article more than once. And please believe me when I tell you that I get caught up in the most fascinating stories and people and wonderful places and ideas incorporated in those articles. To the extent that of late, I am so grateful for being a hoarder and having each edition of ESRA MAGAZINE since first we arrived on Israeli shores neatly available to re-read – or to be honest – to read thoroughly for the first time from cover to cover. And with the magazine website now available too, no one needs to miss out - articles can be accessed at the press of a button on the computer.
Besides the entertainment value, there is the information offered. A veritable yellow pages directory of what to do, who to see, where to go, what’s coming, what’s been, what to eat, how to get places, who to call when needing help, how to serve. In short, how to both contribute and enjoy living fully in the vibrant, scintillating, exciting land of Israel, buoyed by its history and inspired to contribute to its future. In addition one appreciates the tremendous strides that have been made by the ESRA organization over the years – the wonderful work that a band of volunteers has steered and continues to drive to the level of success it has reached.
Does the time I now spend on reading my old magazines qualify as ‘volunteering time’, I wonder? If so, it is time for a recalculation - double up the hours at the very least and know that I am sleeping less and reading more - but missing very little.