The Israeli military’s Education Corps admitted Saturday that hundreds of new immigrants to Israel are allowed to serve in combat units in the Israeli occupying forces in the West Bank and borders of Gaza without knowing sufficient Hebrew to understand rules and orders.
Although new immigrants are required to take a two to three month course which includes classes in Hebrew (which, along with Arabic, is the official language of the state of Israel), but even if they fail the test at the end of the course, they are still allowed to serve in combat units.
One officer with the Israeli military’s Education Corps told a reporter from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that “due to the need to deal simultaneously with getting drafted, an unfamiliar place, being without family and having problems at home, and in addition, learning a new language, many people finish the course with a low level of Hebrew.’
Not having sufficient understanding of the language can, and has, resulted in soldiers engaging in unsafe or even deadly behavior. According to one infantry officer, “We’ve had quite a few cases of safety issues when they did not hear the command to cease fire and had a bullet in the chamber because they thought that was the order.’
All new immigrants to Israel between the ages of 21 to 25 are required to serve in the Israeli military for at least six months. Palestinians have complained of Israeli soldiers who are recent immigrants serving in checkpoints and having complete control over Palestinians’ freedom of movement without even being able to read the Palestinians’ Israeli-issued ID cards (which are written in Hebrew).