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IDF Names First Ethiopian-Born Colonel

In a historic first, an Ethiopian-Israeli has been nominated to be chief medical officer for the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command, putting him on track to be the first Israeli of Ethiopian heritage to hold the rank of colonel.

Lt. Col. Dr. Avraham Yitzhak was nominated by by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Monday. He currently heads the Medical Corps’ operational medicine department.

Yitzhak had already started medical school in Addis Ababa before he arrived in Israel at the age of 19 in 1994. He then enrolled at Ben-Gurion University’s medical school. He did his army service as a surgeon after graduation, where he became the IDF’s first Ethiopian-Israeli doctor.

He originally served in the Paratroopers Brigade before transferring to Maglan, an elite unit that operates behind enemy lines. He was injured on the last day of fighting during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, while serving in the Nahal Brigade.

Yitzhak also served as a surgeon in the three recent wars against Hamas: Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Operation Defensive Shield in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Most recently he headed the IDF’s Medical Corps’ operational medicine department.

Yitzhak’s nomination brought “great pride” to the Ethiopian community in Israel, Shoshi Hadana, the chef at Havash, the first kosher Ethiopian restaurant in Israel, told the Times of Israel. “It lifts our heads.”

Yitzhak was one of 28 officers who were nominated for promotion on Monday. Among them were six women.

Lt. Col. Liron Donal will be promoted to colonel and will be the first woman to command a Home Front Command District. She will command the Dan district, which includes Tel Aviv and its nearby suburbs. Lt. Col. Olga Polykov will be promoted to colonel and will take over as chief medical officer of the Home Front Command. Col. Orly Stern will command the building and engineering department of the army’s Logistics Directorate. A fourth woman, known only as Col. M, will take over the human resources department of Military Intelligence.

[IDF Spokesperson’s Unit ]