Israeli Military's Paratroopers Brigade Separated Ethiopian-Israelis for Tryouts

Army calls move a mistake, blaming commander for violating Israel Defense Forces policy.

Moti Milrod

Commanders at a recent Paratroopers Brigade tryout divided the young recruits into groups according to skin color, separating 26 Ethiopian-Israelis from the rest of the soldiers, in clear violation of army policy.

Israel Defense Forces officials stated that the incident — which was reported in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Aharonoth — was not based on official guidelines, but rather the decision of the tryout commander, and labeled it a mistake. In August, the IDF put an end to special courses set up specificially for Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers, in the wake of protests by members of the Ethiopian community who said the courses only reinforced their isolation in Israeli society. Yedioth Aharonoth quoted one recruit at the recent Paratroopers Brigade tryout who said: “They started to call out names, and I realized that slowly, I was being left behind with the other Ethiopian guys. Not that I’m embarrassed about the community, but I didn’t understand why we’re all treated as one. I felt uncomfortable.”

In response, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated that “as part of efforts to integrate all populations into various IDF units, including the Paratroopers’ Brigade, tryouts are held, and candidates from a wide array of populations are invited, as well as soldiers in courses for new immigrants in this incident, tryout teams were mistakenly divided. This decision does not express the IDF’s policy regarding inclusion of Ethiopian-Israelis.”