27 years ago: IDF helps thousands Ethiopian Jews immigrate to Israel

Ethiopians assume commanding positions in the IDF (Zahal) embracing their motivation to contribute, 27 years after Operation Moses

Date: 21/11/2011, 4:19 PM     Author: IDF (Zahal) Website

27 years ago, in a furtive and daring operation the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence Agency) aided approximately 8,000 Ethiopian Jews immigrate to Israel and to safety. ‘Operation Moses’ lasted from November 12th, 1984 to January 5th, 1985 and required flawless cooperation between the IDF (Zahal), the CIA, the US embassy and more.

Nowadays, the majority of Israeli Ethiopians consider their service in the IDF (Zahal) crucial and valuable to their development as Israelis and as people in general.

Ethiopian teens are known for their motivation to serve in combat units and contribute as much as possible.
The first Ethiopian battalion commander in the IDF (Zahal), Lt. Col. Tzion Shankor of the Kfir Brigade, immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia in the 1980’s.

“At first I was confronted with drastic differences in language and culture, but eventually I overcame the challenge of learning with everything,” said Lt. Col. Shankor. He explained that he always hoped to serve in the Paratroopers Brigade, and in spite of his several medical conditions was able to make his dream a reality.

“After completing a year and two months of training, I understood that beyond being a combat soldier I also want to be a commander and completed commanders’ course with honors,” Lt. Col. Shankor continued. “I then went to officer’s school and became a commander at the IDF (Zahal) Officers’ Academy, later on taking on a commanding position in the Kfir Brigade.”

Lt. Col. Shankor explained how important it was to him to contribute and prove his capability as an Ethiopian. He always tells his soldiers, “aim as high as possible and believe in yourselves. From a kid who didn’t finish high-school, I am now an officer with a Bachelor’s Degree. If I can, anybody can.”

Similarly to Lt. Col. Shankor, Emanuel Pasana, an officer in the Nahal Brigade, immigrated to Israel at the age of 10 along with his parents and twelve brothers and sisters. Pasana knew he wanted to spend three years contributing to his country and society as much as possible.

After contributing yet another year of his life and working with special needs children, Pasana joined the Nahal Brigade’s 50th Battalion. He was quickly distinguished as an excellent soldier and was sent to commander’s course and later on officers’ school. He said that his friends and family are proud of him and his achievements in the IDF (Zahal).

Since 2010 there have been more than 110,000 Israeli-Ethiopians residents in Israel, thousands of them joining the army every year. Many Israeli Ethiopians serve in combat positions in every division of the IDF (Zahal), and many of them are selected to become officers and return to their units as commanders.