(photo credit: Courtesy)
A prominent Ethiopian- Israeli activist is about to become the leader of one of the newest pre-military academies.
Gadi Yevarkan, a reserve Military Intelligence officer, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he was honored to become head of the Be’eri pre-military academy, named after Berl Katznelson, located in the Sharon district.
“For Israel to be a strong state, it can’t only rely on military power. It’s good that we have it, but we can’t only be physically strong. Ethics and norms have to be very strong, too, so that they can stand up in any situation,” Yevarkan said.
“This is what we will instill in the people here: the world of values and mutual respect,” he added Some 20 pupils a year will pass through the academy, gaining military-level physical fitness, command and control skills, and a wide ranging education in Zionism, democracy, philosophy, and the history of the state.
Yevarkan is concerned that certain norms in Israel have been on the decline.
“We shouldn’t need Operation Protective Edge to be united. We need to show love for one another on a daily basis. This is what I believe in, and it is what I want to instill in future leaders,” he said.
Yevarkan moved to Israel from Ethiopia when he was eight, during the 1991 Operation Moses. He grew up in a boarding school, and was drafted into the Givati infantry brigade, serving in its reconnaissance unit, before enrolling in an officer’s course.
After his military service, he became a councilor at a boarding school, and then a law student. For the past decade, he has headed an organization striving for equality for Ethiopian-Israelis.
Last December, the Defense Ministry approved plans to set up the Be’eri academy.
“It represents the full fabric of Israeli society, making it unique,” Yevarkan said. “It includes Druse, Ethiopians, and Israelis of every ethnic and cultural background. It’s a microcosm of Israeli society,” he added.
New immigrants are welcome, too, he stressed.
“There’s no better way to get to know Israeli society.”
Pupils will travel around IDF bases, meeting soldiers and commanders. The academy will then accompany them throughout their military service, and into civilian life.
“This is a family, a long-term relationship,” Yevarkan said.
On Thursday, February 18, the academy will open its doors to prospective candidates.
There are a total of 54 pre-military academies in Israel, catering to some 3,500 teenagers.