After visiting Israel several times to lecture about Chinese and Jewish history, Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, decided to do something different during her next trip abroad.
“I wanted to let go of the ‘specialness’ of my training and skills and do something more basic, something more grounded and more urgently needed at the moment,” she says.
On Dec. 16, Schwarcz will begin a two week service trip with “Volunteers for Israel,” a 30-year-old program that promotes solidarity and goodwill among Israelis, American Jews, and other friends of Israel. Since 1982, more than 30,000 American civilians have joined Volunteers for Israel and signed on as short-term volunteers doing noncombatant civilian work with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on bases throughout Israel.
Schwarcz and her fellow volunteers may pack medical supplies, refurbish electronic equipment, repair machinery, and perform logistic assignments wherever they are needed.
Watching Israeli civilians cower in bomb shelters during ‘Pillar of Defense’ convinced Schwarcz that she must help with her own two hands.
“This a moment in time, when I can help Israel without a Ph.D. in Chinese history,” she says. ” What is needed are good will and the desire to rebuild the one and only democracy in the Middle East.”