African Hebrews Proud of Community’s First Officer
First member of Dimona’s African Hebrew Israelites completes officer training course. ‘This is a big step for us,’ community leader says
Itay Ben Yisrael of the African Hebrew Israelites community in Dimona is the first member of the group to become an officer in the IDF. Some 120 young community members currently serve in the army, after the IDF began promoting their enlistment several years ago.
Itay said that the move from life in Dimona to military life was “a culture shock” for him. “I was stunned by how the other guys talked, the curses, the foul language, the direct approach to everything. They could ask me the most intimate questions, as if we grew up together in the same room.
“On the other hand, in the army I discovered the value of friendship. The guys with whom I trained are today my best friends,” he added.
The community’s leader, Ben Ami Yisrael, told Ynet, “Itay could become a symbol for all of us here in Israel. this is a big step for us. From now on, no one will doubt our willingness to serve in the Israeli army. Itay is certainly a pioneer, our first officer, and we’re proud of him.”
Itay was born in Dimona and grew up at his grandmother’s house, after his parents divorced. Group members said that because he was “overly kind” he was initially dismissed from the officer training course, but due to his insistence was accepted to the following course, which he completed successfully.
“I was explained that a commander has to be mean and tough, and this was sometimes hard for me, but now I’m okay with it,” he said.