Ethiopian brigade commander makes IDF history



Lt. Col. Avi Yitzhak, head of the Combat Medical Branch, is the first Ethiopian Israeli to graduate the army’s prestigious course for brigade commanders • “The sky is the limit. In my community, people need to understand this,” Yitzhak tells Israel Hayom.

Lilach Shoval
Lt. Col. Avi Yitzhak with fellow commanders Lt. Col. Avi Rahamim (left) and Lt. Col. Kobi Weller


Photo credit: Yossi Zeliger

Lt. Col. Avi Yitzhak has become the first Ethiopian Israeli to graduate the Israel Defense Forces’ prestigious course for brigade commanders, which ended last week. Yitzhak is a doctor who heads the Combat Medical Branch in the Medical Corps.

 Yitzhak will soon vie for a promotion to full colonel, making him the first Ethiopian in IDF history to earn such a rank.

 After immigrating to Israel in 1991 at the age of 19 and studying Hebrew for a year at an absorption center, Yitzhak began his path in the IDF in the Medical Corps. He became the first Ethiopian Israeli to serve as a combat doctor, with both the Paratrooper Brigade and the elite Maglan unit. He later gained expertise as a surgeon. Yitzhak was also chief medical officer for the Gaza Division during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, during which he saved the life of a lieutenant colonel in the reserves who had been hit in the chest by shrapnel from a mortar round.

“I always felt the responsibility of representing the Ethiopian community,” Yitzhak told Israel Hayom. “I was the first student from the community to study medicine in Israel and I believe, ultimately, that everything is dependent on the individual and the sky is the limit. In my community, people need to understand this.”

 Among the other course graduates were Paratrooper Brigade deputy commander Lt. Col. Kobi Weller, who is slated to assume command of the brigade, and Lt. Col. Avi Rahamim, who commanded the Sagi Territorial Brigade.