Three times a year the Beit Shemesh Blood Drive is held. I signed up to volunteer while we were still in the US. I was assigned to either "take blood pressures or give out drinks and snacks". Fine with me--I can handle either (they said they would provide me with a stethoscope if I ended up taking bp's, since mine is on our lift). This amazing woman who ran it told me she started it in 1998 and has organized 46 blood drives since then! HERO! (And the computer programmer guy who, for many, many years has volunteered to drive people to/from the blood drive [and was so experienced at doing it that, while he was driving me and some others, a call came in and, when he heard the man's name, he asked, "you live on .......street, right?"]--HERO!).
In the end, it was pretty quiet when I was there, so they didn't really need me to volunteer in any way except to give blood. I specifically didn't give blood before we left so that I would be able to donate at the Blood Drive (seemed like a nice way to give back to our new community).
Donating here was really an interesting experience. First off, the entire form was in Hebrew, but, before I panicked, I saw that they had a laminated copy of an English translation. Whew. Then off to pre-donation clearance ("have you ever had Mad Cow disease?"). I had to stop the woman and tell her (in Hebrew, per my ulpan teacher) that I was a new immigrant and I don't know much Hebrew yet and did she speak English? Between her moderate English and my moderate Hebrew (she was better than me!), we got through the whole form. She was so delighted that I was an olah chadashah. It's really sweet how people here really get a kick out of new immigrants (unlike, say, many other places in the world.....). Off to another booth for a finger stick: "Ooh," said the nurse, "13.6! That's GREAT". Me, "Wow! That IS great! Must be because I've eaten so much more meat since we moved here". Her: "NO! It's Israel! It is such a good country--it is good for you! You get blessings being here." Everyone was beyond sweet and showered me with blessings for a good New Year and a good absorption (there it is again!). There were five stations to get through the donation process, and, when each person sent me on her way she told the next one I was a new immigrant. When the person checking me in saw the date on my teudat zehut she did a double-take and said, "You really ARE a new immigrant".
Then I received a booklet with the date stamped inside and they told me I was now eligible for "Blood Insurance". Basically, if a person needs blood in Israel, they are required to find family/friends to donate blood in their name, so the blood supply does not get depleted, and, especially, so the supply is there if soldiers need it. I found the details quite interesting: http://www.shemesh.co.il/bd/BloodDriveAllAboutBloodInsurance.html. By doing a proactive donation, I ensured that my family can receive as much blood as they need (hopefully none!) for the next year. Quite different than getting a t-shirt and a coffee mug like at Children's (always my favorite place to donate), but really a sensible plan.
Fun fact: Magen David Adom in Israel, who staffs the blood drive, is known as "MADA" here. I keep walking by their various ambulances, which all contain the names of donors on the side, and I fully expect that, one day, I will see a name or community I know.