Ethiopians Replace Bedouin as IDF Trackers at Dimona Nuclear Site

Bedouin don't have security clearance to work at sensitive facility, while Jewish Ethiopian IDF troops do.

The army unit that guards the Dimona nuclear facility has recently received a team of trackers of Ethiopian descent to perform duties normally undertaken by Bedouin troops.

The Jewish Ethiopian soldiers are the only non-Bedouin trackers in service.

They have been assigned to guard the Dimona reactor - an ultra-sensitive facility where foreign media say Israel has produced weapons - because Bedouin soldiers do not have the necessary security clearance to serve there.

The group of Ethiopian trackers who recently graduated from the Israel Defense Forces' tracker course at Beit Govrin were all born in Ethiopia, where they grew up in remote villages and herded cattle.

Drawing on childhood skills

Their commanders say their skills, which they acquired in childhood, and their new training will help them identify any attempts to infiltrate the base.

Despite requests by Jewish soldiers to take part, the job had been reserved for Bedouin, an Arab community for whom service in the IDF is voluntary.

"To be a real tracker, you need to have grown up outdoors, preferably herding cattle," said a senior officer serving in the tracker unit.

"A Jew who grew up like that can also be easily taught to be an army tracker, but he wouldn't fit in with this Bedouin unit, where blood ties and tribal affiliation play a big role," the officer said.

The officer said such a soldier would not get along with his comrades. "They would just never trust him," he said.