- What kinds of positions are available at BFP-Jerusalem?
- What language skills do I need?
- Do I receive a salary from BFP?
- What kind of money can I use in Israel?
- What are the costs involved in serving with BFP?
- What will it cost me every month to live in Jerusalem?
- How do I raise financial and prayer support?
- What if my insurance doesn’t cover me while I’m in Israel?
- What kind of physical shape must I be in to serve with Bridges for Peace?
- How long can I volunteer?
- How long does the process take to become a volunteer?
- Where will I live?
- Can I bring my computer with me?
- What kind of transportation does Israel have?
- Is it possible for me to get my e-mail while I’m away from home?
One of the benefits of working in the BFP Jerusalem operations is cultural diversity. Volunteers from all over the world staff BFP Jerusalem. As a result, English is the standard language used at work, as well as in the living place. In some cases, other languages (including Hebrew) may be useful but are not mandatory. It is not necessary to speak Hebrew to volunteer in Jerusalem. However, one should have adequate skills in all areas of English language usage.
Due to Israeli laws, BFP is not allowed to hire non-Israelis as employees. As a result, all of our volunteer positions are non-paying jobs. BFP volunteer support staff provide for all of their own expenses, including travel to and from Israel, lodging, food, and other living costs.
The new Israeli shekel (NIS) is the currency of the Land. It's best to use shekels (shekelim is the plural form in Hebrew) when making purchases in Israel, especially if you plan to stay for any length of time. Many tourist sites still accept American dollars and American dollar travelers checks, but it's recommended to do all your daily shopping and spending in shekels. There are several ways to make purchases and to obtain shekels depending on what suits you best:
Israel's major cities offer a whole host of Money Changers, which generally exchange all types of international cash and or traveler's checks (and sometimes checks from personal checking accounts) for shekels. This is the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way of obtaining shekels for spending purposes.
Another option is to use an ATM (automated teller machine). Most ATMs around the country honor foreign credit and debit cards to withdraw shekels.
A final option is the use of credit cards. Credit cards are quite popular with Israelis and can be used for almost any kind of shopping. Even if this would not be your first option, it is still advisable to have at least one credit card available in case of an emergency.
All BFP volunteer support staff positions are non-paying jobs. In an effort to maximize the donated funds that come into BFP for the various outreaches, all of our volunteer staff cover their own expenses. This is usually done with funds from their personal savings or with financial support they receive from their churches, family and/or friends, or a combination of all three.
We estimate that approx. 5,000 NIS for a single person and 8,000 NIS per month for a couple will cover all necessary expenses, depending on the lifestyle to which you are accustomed (you can use currency converters such as www.oanda.com/currency/converter in order to convert from NIS to your country’s currency at the latest exchange rate to assist your budgeting). These expenses include rent and all other fees related to apartment rental, food, traveling in Israel, Internet access charges, and other miscellaneous costs, but do not include round-trip fare from your home country. The actual amount you spend monthly may vary depending on your lifestyle.
BFP has a small packet of information that may help you in your efforts to raise support for your time of service in Israel. Once you are accepted to serve with BFP in Jerusalem, we can send this information to you upon request.
Several BFP volunteers use expatriate insurance companies like Talent Trust Consultants (www.talent-trust.com) or Seven Corners (www.sevencorners.com), which provide comprehensive insurance for those who are serving in another country. Local Israeli insurance is also available to BFP long-term volunteers upon request.
Many of our positions require a good, strong back and the ability to lift heavy loads several times throughout the day. While these positions don't require continual heavy lifting, they still tend to be labor-intensive and can be physically draining. The physically demanding positions include the courier, food-bank floor workers, and home repair team workers.
It should also be noted here that Jerusalem (altitude approx 2,550 feet or 800 meters above sea level) is a physically demanding city, with lots of hills making up many of the streets and neighborhoods. Karmiel is 820 feet or 250 meters above sea level. The climate in Karmiel is dry, breezy and comfortable with a 55% humidity from April to October and 65-70% humidity from November to March. Since most volunteers do not have a vehicle to get around, walking and busing are the most common modes of transportation. In short, one should be prepared to do lots of walking - often carrying shopping bags, backpacks, etc.
Short-term volunteer positions, which do not require extensive training, are available for less than six months. However, we prefer volunteers to serve with us for six months or more if they are placed in a skilled position, which requires several weeks of training. This helps us to maintain proper administration of our projects in Israel. The maximum length of time one is permitted to volunteer by the Israeli Immigration Authorities is 27 months.
On average, the application process—from the time you request an application until you receive a definitive answer from the Jerusalem office—takes anywhere from two to six months. Typically, those desiring to serve less than a month find that the process goes much more quickly, usually a few weeks. Those desiring to serve more than a month find the process to be longer.
How quickly all your paperwork is returned to your national office.
How long you desire to serve. How quickly your personal references complete their forms and return them to the national office.
The availability of specific positions in Jerusalem.
If you are considering serving more than 3 months, please read carefully through the Visa section of the FAQs. It takes approximately 6 – 8 weeks to obtain a visa after you have been notified of your acceptance to serve as a volunteer.
BFP maintains several fully furnished apartments in Jerusalem where our volunteer staff share lodging and expenses. We maintain two- and three-bedroom apartments where each person is provided with a private room and the common areas are shared. In some cases short term volunteers may be required to share a room. Volunteers pay all living expenses, including rent, property taxes, electricity, gas, water, and telephone. We have found that providing housing is very helpful to our staff, offering them a place to call "home" when they first arrive and drastically reducing the lodging costs associated with finding their own place.
Yes, it's usually as simple as purchasing an Israeli electrical cord (plug) to connect your computer to the outlet in the wall. Most modern laptop computers have a transformer already built into them, which allows them to run on either 110 or 220 volts. The electrical cords and/or adapters that allow your plug to be used in an Israeli socket cost approximately NIS 10 to 30.
Israel's public transportation consists of buses (both inner-city and intra-city), as well as taxis and a rail system (mostly intra-city; Haifa has a subway. The bus system in Israel works very well and is not too costly. Most BFP support staff get around using buses.
Many coffee shops provide wireless Internet service for a small fee. Additionally, Jerusalem’s Municipality provides this service free of charge throughout a large part of the City Centre. One can simply sit in a park or restaurant and connect to the Internet. Internet contracts with local ISPs for specific apartments run for 12 months at a time making such contracts convenient only for those volunteers who plan to serve for 1 year or longer. Those volunteers whose positions require Internet access can access their email on their work computers. For those who do not fall into this category, a shared computer is usually available at the BFP facilities for this purpose.