Published On: Tue, Aug 13th, 2013

Knesset committee to discuss Israeli Defense Forces suicide rates-(Ethiopians Committing Suicide on the Rise)

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The fact that 37 percent of IDF suicides are new immigrants is especially worrisome, says immigration committee chair MK Razbozov.

The high incidence of suicide in the Israel Defense Forces will be discussed at an upcoming Knesset committee meeting, MK Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid) said on Monday, following the publication in Haaretz of a new report compiled by the Knesset Research and Information Center on suicides among soldiers.


By Gili Cohen | Aug. 13, 2013 | 3:40 AM

The report showed that 37 percent of the male and female IDF soldiers who committed suicide over the past six years were not native-born Israelis, but new immigrants. The report’s data only included country of origin; it is possible that more comprehensive data, including that of Israeli-born soldiers of Ethiopian or Russian origin, would produce higher figures.

Razbozov, who chairs the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, said that he would convene the committee earlier than scheduled in light of the report’s findings. The committee would probably meet sometime in September, he said.

“The topic is not something new and it surfaces from time to time,” Razbozov said. “The percentage of suicides among Ethiopian Jews in Israel is high and that fact indicates a serious problem. Since this subject is extremely important and must be discussed by the committee, I hope to hold an urgent discussion of the matter before the end of the [Knesset’s summer] recess. As someone who himself was once a new immigrant here, I am familiar with the problems.”

“There are soldiers who are on their own (‘lone soldiers’ without a supportive family nearby), and new immigrants, whose situation is often very difficult,” Razbozov added. “These soldiers sometimes reach the point where they feel completely helpless. Examples have come to my attention that could end in disaster. It has already been known for some time that many new immigrants find themselves in a difficult emotional situation that is the result of the very fact of their having come here; this is one of the factors that could lead someone to commit suicide. We must find out what the army thinks about this problem and we must consider how to solve it.”

The number of suicides among new immigrants from the former Soviet Union was double the corresponding figure for non-immigrant Israelis and the number of suicides among new immigrants from Ethiopia was five to ten times higher, depending on age bracket, according to statistics presented to the Knesset committee in 2011. The 15-24 age group is where the gap is the greatest.

According to the figures for 2012 that appear in the Knesset report on IDF suicides, four soldiers committed suicide last year; two of them were born in the Soviet Union, one in Ethiopia and the fourth was defined as “other” (that is, someone who was not born in Israel and was the native of a country other than the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Ethiopia). In 2011, seven IDF soldiers committed suicide; two of them were born in the Soviet Union, one in Ethiopia and four were defined as “other.” In 2010, 11 new immigrant soldiers committed suicide; five of them were born in the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, three in Ethiopia and three were born in other countries.

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