2nd generation Ethiopians complete the IDF Amir Course

Amnon Direktor, IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

This course was established for the successful integration of Ethiopian soldiers into the IDF (Zahal).

Date: 24/03/2010, 9:04 PM     Author: Amnon Direktor

The Amir course for male and female Ethiopian soldiers at the beginning of their IDF (Zahal) service was successfully completed on Tuesday by over a thousand graduates. The main purpose of this unique course is to successfully integrate these soldiers into their military service and to utilize their capabilities and personal skills. The course was established four years ago with the goal of finding a solution to the problems Ethiopian soldiers face upon integration into the IDF (Zahal). Until this course, Ethiopian soldiers typically received low test scores in the IDF (Zahal) psycho-technical exam, which has since been shown to have socio-economic influences and therefore didn’t reflect the soldiers’ true potential. Therefore, many Ethiopian soldiers were often given less attractive IDF (Zahal) positions.

“A high score in the exam doesn’t necessarily reflect the chances of success in military service,” explained Course Commander Maj. Rica El-Ami Dadon, to the parents of her soldiers. “We bring them here to get to know them better and to adapt them into their appropriate roles.”

The Amir course takes place in Michve Alon, an IDF (Zahal) military base specializing in educational programs, and lasts for four to seven intensive weeks. The course includes military content and content related to Zionism, heritage and history, which are taught by military personnel. In addition, there is a series of lessons and strategies to develop thinking and learning skills, personal empowerment and improving adaptation taught by the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP) – Feuerstein Institute.

Commander of ‘Amir’ company, First Lieutenant Bat-Chen Steinmetz manages the course, and its great success is due in large part to her hard work. When she speaks about the course, her devotion to her soldiers and to her work quickly becomes apparent. “The soldiers that come here are amazing, each with their own personal story and character,” said Steinmetz. “Meeting with them is always challenging and interesting. This course requires the staff to work with the military and with a civilian institute, and to combine the two and ensure that the interests of the two bodies are satisfied. It’s not basic training, but an enrichment course. It is a privilege that very few soldiers in the IDF (Zahal) receive, and we try to make this clear to the soldiers and let them understand the importance of the opportunity presented.”

First Lt. Steinmetz emphasized the importance of the course for the integration of the Ethiopian population into Israeli society. “Because it is not a compulsory course we need to produce high discipline. The course helps Ethiopian soldiers get to their appropriate positions, when they otherwise would not have been able to reach them on their own. Our goal is to prevent soldiers from being places in inappropriate military positions by mapping out the conditions of each soldier individually. There isn’t any other course like this in the IDF (Zahal). With the help of tests, analyses, personal interviews and psychologists, along with the course staff who is with the soldiers 24 hours a day, we simply know how to find the job which will be the right fit for each soldier.”

When discussing room for improvement, First Lt. Steinmetz said the course was great, and all that is missing is more of the work that is already being done. “There should be a continuation of the course. It should not just end after five weeks in Michve Alon. It should be an ongoing process for those soldiers who passed it and need more help down the road.”

“Give everyone the opportunity to maximize their ability”

Corporal Hadas Alexander, a commander in the ‘Amir’ course, spoke about the contribution of the course and the opportunity it gives to the soldiers. “The course is challenging, satisfying, and useful. It manages to educate the soldiers and give them each a chance to reach their maximum capacity.” She continued to emphasize the big changes that the soldiers undergo during the course, and gave a specific example. “I had a soldier who from the moment she arrived here didn’t act like a ‘soldier’. He was insolent; he didn’t wake up on time, he had no desire to succeed. After a significant and long progression, the “bad” soldier became an outstanding soldier of excellence. Today I am proud to see him graduate from the course.”

Private Rachel Samni, who completed the course as the Soldier of Excellence from her company, spoke about the concerns she had previous to the course. “The course was surprising. In retrospect, I realize that we gained so much and we have the advantage over everyone. We acquired knowledge, military discipline and now I’m no longer a complainer she said. She also had some words for future Amir course participants. “The course is a must. You cannot understand how important and useful this course is until you complete it.”