Soldiers From the Ethiopian Community Lag Behind

A quarter of soldiers of Ethiopian origin fail to complete their military service, twice as many as the overall draft.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

A quarter of the soldiers from Israel's Ethiopian community do not complete their service in the Israel Defense Forces, twice as many as from the overall draft, according to data presented in the Knesset yesterday.

Additionally, fully half of Ethiopian male soldiers have a proficiency rating below 47, compared to only 22 percent of the overall draft. The ratings (known as kaba) are used in finding appropriate positions for soldiers. Only soldiers rated above 52 (out of 56) can become officers and only those above 54 are accepted to the Air Force Flight Academy or various posts in military intelligence.

According to the data, which was provided to a sub-committee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, 58 percent of Ethiopian female soldiers rated lower than 47, in comparison to only 16 percent of the overall draft.

Ethiopian soldiers are barely represented in the higher kaba rankings. According to the IDF's personnel directorate, only 0.9 percent of Ethiopian female soldiers and 1.6 percent of Ethiopian male soldiers placed in the top three categories, 54-56. In the overall draft, 10 percent of female soldiers and a quarter of the males placed in the top three categories. A low ranking limits the scope of posts available to the soldier.

An IDF representative told the Knesset committee that some 23 percent of Ethiopian soldiers serve in combat units, slightly higher than the overall average, but very few are in intelligence. Some 21 percent hold administrative posts and 9 percent serve as drivers – three times the overall average.

"It's inconceivable that those who have the highest motivation and draft percentage rates, are the ones who eventually drop out, desert, are imprisoned, and don't make it into elite units," said committee chairman MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) in response to the data. "This is a sin towards our society."

Data regarding IDF imprisonment and drop-out rates for the Ethiopian community was also presented during the committee meeting, but details were not revealed. Reportedly, 38 percent of Ethiopian male soldiers were imprisoned at least once during their military service and every fifth soldier was imprisoned more than once.

Other data revealed yesterday showed an increase in the number of soldiers that failed to complete their military service. In 2008, some 22 percent of male Ethiopian soldiers did not complete their service, compared to 25 percent in 2012. Among the overall draft, the rate was 13.8 percent in 2008 and 16 percent in 2012.

Ethiopian soldiers in the Israeli military.Credit: Doron Golan

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