By age 5 he had lost both of his parents and subsequently immigrated to Israel with his older brother. While all odds were against him, he persevered and his strength and ambition carried him to one of the most elite units of the IDF (Zahal). Soon enough he found himself donning the red beret of Duvdevan, as a specialist in covert reconnaissance operations.
Staff Sergeant Metoko’s life is both a sad story of suffering and loss, and an inspirational one of resilience and strength. His life began 21 years ago in the vibrant, yet crowded and impoverished city of Adis Ababa, Ethiopia. Metoko lost both of his parents, but refused to accept the impossible hand he was dealt and persevered.
“I made Aliya when I was five years old, and before I left, my parents had died. My older brother took our upbringing upon himself, which is very complicated, in and of itself,” recounted Metoko. At age 18, his older brother was the caretaker of four orphaned souls, including the five year old Metoko.
His upbringing provided Metoko with an intimate understanding of hardship, and that nothing would be handed to him on a silver platter. He understood what it means to work hard, and to do whatever it takes in order to succeed.
As an orphan, Metoko grew up in a caravan site, then moved into an overcrowded apartment in Haifa where he attended high school. He was an extremely diligent student and successfully completed all of his matriculation exams. Following high school, Metoko was accepted into a selective pre-army service which exposed him to different parts of the country for the first time. As he explained, “Those were beautiful days, I travelled and I learned. An experience that was very meaningful in my life.”
After a year of pre-army service, he was driven to make it to the most selective combat position he knew of, Israeli Navy Seals. At the time, he was not familiar with the elite counter-terrorist unit Duvdevan, whose activity is highly confidential in nature.
He made it through the grueling selection process of the Navy SEALS, but did not feel confident in the numerous, challenging water exercises. Ultimately, Metoko chose the famed reconnaissance unit, Duvdevan, where soldiers are often disguised to look like the enemy and are sent into the enemy’s territory.
Metoko endured a brutal training period, and soon enough he faced a real operation, not practice, and not a simulation. He recollected his first secret operation, and explained the feelings and thoughts that rushed through his head:
“It is exciting and scary. You know it’s not training. This time it’s going to be the real thing. I remember in the villages themselves I had the thrill of a new fighter that’s doing it for the first time. A combination of fun, adrenaline and fear.”
In the beginning, he participated in military operations where he penetrated into the heart of a hostile population. “It is very hard to explain. I do things that I’ve seen in action movies. All of a sudden I’m the one that’s there,” he explained. “It’s a feeling that not everyone is privileged to feel and I feel very happy to be a part of this.”
Looking back on his experiences in the unit, Metoko recalls, “Today I live it and for me it is routine. But the end of the training track was one of the most exciting moments in my life. You tear yourself apart to get into the unit to reach the company fighters, and when that happens, when I look at it from the outside, you discover an interesting service with amazing people.”
Taking the difficult lessons that life taught him, Metoko managed to channel this suffering into achieving a dream. He worked tirelessly and defied all odds. His strength was unwavering and his story, empowering.