(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The IDF has failed to properly absorb Ethiopian immigrants into the military and has not made the best use of their potential, senior IDF officers admitted this week.
As a result, the officers acknowledged, only a handful of non-combat Ethiopian soldiers were accepted into prestigious IDF courses, while the majority were classified as "low-class" soldiers and were assigned to insignificant jobs.
"We need to improve the way we recruit Ethiopian soldiers," a senior officer in the IDF Manpower Department told The Jerusalem Post this week. "We need to get to know the Ethiopians better and to try and understand their world and background and to pass that information on to the entire army."
Following extensive research, the army recently conducted an experiment with 100 Ethiopian soldiers and granted them a special course which included classes on how to tell time, self-orientation and other basic skills the Ethiopians were found to be lacking. The course, called the "Amir Project," was conducted in the Alon Farm near Karmiel in the North.
The differences between Israeli and Ethiopian mentalities and cultures caused the failure, the officers said. Following the course, the army found that that the Ethiopian soldiers succeeded in getting into and graduating from courses for commanders, medics and dental assistants. "This was certainly an exceptional achievement," they said.
"We found that commanders wouldn't promote Ethiopian soldiers since the soldiers wouldn't look their officers in the eye. The officers thought it was disrespect," a high-ranking officer said. "After a while we finally understood that they don't look into the eyes of any figure of authority, including their own fathers."
The army, the officer said, planned to continue investing in improving the enlistment process for Ethiopians. While there was room for improvement, the officer claimed that the IDF was far better at absorbing Ethiopians than other public institutions.
"We still have a lot of work to do," the officer admitted, "since we want to create a military that gives every soldier the opportunity to utilize their full potential."