10% of US-Israelis in IDF become officers

The report says a large majority of American immigrants in the army serve in combat units.

November 23, 2014 00:34
2 minute read.
Lone soldiers

Lone soldiers who study at Yeshivat Hakotel take a break from training at their base.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A significant minority of American-Israeli soldiers who serve in the IDF go on to become officers, according to figures received by The Jerusalem Post.

The large majority of American immigrants who serve in the IDF join combat units, according to the figures.

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In 2013, immigrant soldiers from the US mostly served in infantry combat battalions, such as the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion, Golani Brigade’s 51st and 12th battalions, and Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion. American-Israeli soldiers were also heavily represented in the IDF’s Planning Division.

Ninety percent of soldiers who emigrated from the US completed their military service successfully. Some 30% of all immigrants hail from the US.

The IDF’s Immigration and Integration Branch, a part of the military’s Education and Youth Corps, is in charge of integrating immigrants and minorities into the military.

It deals with immigrants from English-speaking and Russian- speaking countries, as well as from Ethiopia.

The branch is tasked with integrating Israeli soldiers from Druse, Beduin and Circassian minority backgrounds, too.

“Every fifth soldier is an immigrant,” a senior source from the branch told the Post. “But two-thirds are veteran immigrants,” the source added.

The branch runs several programs that are tailor made for various backgrounds and designed to facilitate their integration into the military.

For recruits who don’t know Hebrew, a program lasting three to four months teaches them the language, alongside knowledge of Israel and fundamental military concepts.

“A combat soldier has to know the difference between the words ‘look’ and ‘shoot’ [words that sound similar in Hebrew],” the source explained.

Immigrant conscripts who have a reasonable grasp of Hebrew can skip the language course and enroll in a pre-conscription military academy, which prepares them for field combat units and the transition from civilian to military life.

“There are cases in which we tell immigrants that they are not suitable for combat roles. We give them other roles that are better suited to them, thereby preventing frustration or a sense of failure,” the officer said.

In recent years the Immigration and Integration Branch has focused on integrating Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers into the military.

They are heavily represented in infantry brigades such as the Paratroopers, Golani and Kfir, as well armament units and the air force.

One goal has been to increase the number of Ethiopian officers in the IDF. Engaging the families of conscripts has been one way to achieve this. Prior to the conscription date, the IDF sends serving Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers to the families of conscripts to explain the range of roles available in the military.

“We work with the parents. We have set up a mock military academy for them lasting a few days, where they learn for the first time about the life of soldiers. Commanders call the parents directly to ensure that they arrive at course completion ceremonies,” the source added.

Female Ethiopian conscripts with low test scores but high potential are encouraged to join a pre-conscription training program, from which 90% go on to serve in roles such as in Military Intelligence.

Some 120 to 150 male conscripts take part in pre-conscription courses aimed at getting them into challenging roles, such as software assessment in the military – a skill that can later be used to obtain employment in the civilian world.

The source said that after several years of effort, “we are finally seeing improvements in the rates of fully successful military service for Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers.”

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