Why Do Ethiopian Soldiers Go To Jail?

According to Army Radio this morning, 50% of Ethiopians who serve in the IDF, also serve some time in Army prison.

Indeed, Ethiopians make up fully 20% of all soldiers in military jails.

This is way above the proportion of Ethiopians in the population - there are 125,000 Ethiopians Jewish Israelis, who represent less than 2% of the total population.

According to Army Radio, the IDF has launched an enquiry into why the Ethiopian soldiers are ending up so disproportionately in army prisons.

It is interesting to compare this imbalance with the US experience; 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites, with blacks being totally disproportionate.

File:U.S. incarceration rate by race 2.gif

The Ethiopian population in Israel is underprivileged, but getting less so than they were a decade ago.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, average expenditure for an Ethiopian family is 9234 NIS/month, whereas the average expenditure for all Israeli families is 13967 NIS/month.

Drop-out rates from school are only slightly higher than the overall population (1.6% vs 1.5%); the proportion of Ethiopians going on to university is significantly lower than the rest of Israel (4.5% vs 6.6%).

Overall, the younger generation seems to be making progress in Israeli society, according to Army Radio, with service in the army higher than almost any other ethnic group. 

It is notable that Israel appointed its first Ethiopian Ambassador, Beylanesh Zevadia, in 2012.

According to my reckoning, there will be three Ethiopian MK in the new Knesset. 

I am curious why so many of these Ethionian IDF soldiers are getting into trouble... 

Is it prejudice by the officers and military police? 

Or is there some behavioural crisis going on??  


  1. In my unit (back in the mid 90's), the Ethiopian guys most often went to jail because they left their weapons unattended and were caught.

    I was told by some more experienced soldiers that the Ethiopians tended to have less of a sensitivity to private property and thus had a tendency to leave their stuff around.


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