(photo credit: )
In an effort to improve the integration of new immigrants in the IDF, the Education Corps has hired civilian social workers who serve as "population consultants" to commanders of military training bases and assist them to better understand their soldiers' culture and needs.
The social workers, called in the army "population consultants," help commanders to better understand soldiers from abroad, mainly Ethiopians and Kafkazim (Jews from the Caucasus Mountain region of the former Soviet Union,) who, due to cultural differences, were often misplaced in the IDF.
The decision to hire the civilian social workers coincides with another IDF program directed in conjunction with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) called "A Leap for Aliya," established in 2005 to help Ethiopians obtain better positions during their mandatory military service.
"In 2005, we discovered that Ethiopians were not being assigned to good positions and when we started to investigate ourselves we discovered that we were not effectively classifying them," said Lt.-Col. Shlomi Avraham, head of the Technological and Research Division in the IDF's Human Resources Department.
Under the program, the JDC hired nine former immigrant soldiers who today work in communities with large immigrant populations and accompany future recruits throughout their induction process. Two years after establishing the program for Ethiopians, the IDF recently decided to also open it for Kafkazim, particularly female members of the Caucasus community, who until now have rarely served in the military.
"These populations don't always understand what the IDF is all about," Avraham said. "The community workers are there to provide support for the future recruits and accompany them and their family financially and emotionally."
A Leap for Aliya offers a six-week program for the immigrant soldiers during which they learn how to study in IDF courses and take standardized exams. Since the program began two years ago, Ethiopian immigrants have begun serving in positions they did not before - such as Military Intelligence and Army Radio.