Steve Plotkin, Program Manager for Volunteers For Israel, details the success of VFI’s newest program, “VFI Plus Archaeology.”
This 14-day prototype program diversifies the standard time-tested VFI programs and opens our market with a new, unique volunteer opportunity. This initial offering had a 4-month marketing window and unfortunately overlapped both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Nonetheless, it attracted 12 serious volunteers of which 6 participated. The 14-day All-Inclusive program cost round-trip airfare plus $2,500.
The trial program is deemed a success by all five operating partners; VFI, Sar-El, IDF, IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority), and GIL Travel, and will result in additional All-Inclusive archaeology offerings during 2019.
Each of the program’s 4 major elements performed well, requiring just minor tweaks.
Element 1 - The IDF 4.5 day volunteer service was performed at the Air Force logistics base Lahav, near Tel Aviv. The hospitality was superior, as were the accommodations, quality of food and personnel. The work assignments were split between the men working in a FedEx-like package distribution center, and the woman in a highly automated warehouse. Sar-El provided a superior IDF base location, and outstanding Modricot.
Element 2 – Touring for 2.5 days was intense, active and diverse, targeting 4-5 activities per day in our private vehicle. The touring is focused on interesting yet less popular sites, and our hotels were 4-5 stars.
Element 3 – Volunteer for 5 days at an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) dig near Haifa called Tel Assar. The IAA provided an authentic hands-on archaeological experience at a unique megaproject dig site which focused on the Chalcolithic period to Early Bronze Age. Our findings were dated to 6,000 years old, on a site occupied by pre-Canaanites. The daily one-hour bus ride departed at 6:00 a.m. for dig site, and we worked until 2:00 p.m., eating lunch onsite.
A professional archaeologist was assigned to our group and guided our efforts. The work at the dig was a mix of physical labor intermingled with fine work tasks. Our work site was shared with friendly Arab laborers and several experienced archaeologists who provided support and daily educational lectures. We only worked 4 days on-site due to a scheduled site closure on the 5th-day, so additional touring was conveniently substituted.
Element 4 – Touring for 3 days in our private vehicle was rapid-fire and informative, again targeting 4-5 activities per day, with little wasted time. Our closing dinner was held in a tasty Jaffa restaurant. GIL Travel provided all transportation, tour guide and activities, 4 and 5- star accommodations, and most food. All transportation was in private busses. Our tour guide, Julia, was an absolute wizard, not only in regard to creative touring content, but also able to pivot to explore opportunities, and resolve issues. I acted as group leader for the motivated and educated group with an average age of 70 years.
Meetings were held with senior IAA personnel to explore additional program ideas for VFI-IAA participation. The resulting business plan will propose 2 or 3 new programs for 2019 in conjunction with the IAA. Initial plans are to offer VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY in the Fall of 2019, and also in the Spring. A new program, “VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY 2” is under consideration which would allow either one- or two-weeks volunteering on an IAA dig site.
Steve Plotkin, Program Manager
2019 PROGRAM SCHEDULE and Cost:
October 25–November 10
17 days VFI PLUS program - $2,695 (Single Supplement $780)
November 17-November 23
7 days VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY-2 program - $1,970 (Single Supplement $438)
November 17-November 30
14 days VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY-2 program - $2,995 (Single Supplement $984)
December 6- December 22
17 days VFI PLUS ADVANCED program - $2,695 (Single Supplement $665)
January 25–February 10
17 days VFI PLUS program - $2,480 (Single supplement $595)
March 29-April 14
17 days VFI PLUS ADVANCED program - $2,880 (Single Supplement $725)
May 12-May 25
14 days VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY program - $2,900 (Single Supplement $1,020)
September 8-September 21
14 days VFI PLUS ARCHAEOLOGY program - $2,595 (Single Supplement $668)