“I know that the moment I take off this uniform, I will no longer be that successful Lt. Col. Shankur from the IDF, whose name precedes him. I will be Zion the Ethiopian, who will not be able to easily get into any club in Tel Aviv,” says Zion Shankur.
“When you stick out and cannot blend in with the majority, you never know what people think about you, and you don’t want your commanders to have any doubts about your judgment. That is why it was always important for me to prove how good I can be at everything I do,” Lt. Col. Zion Shankur told Israel Hayom on Monday.
Shankur, 40, who heads a branch of the Tze’elim base’s tactical training command, has a lot to be proud of. He was always driven to succeed and wanted to leave his mark. As an outstanding soldier in the Israel Defense Forces and an immigrant from Ethiopia, he lit a torch on Israel’s 49th Independence Day. He was awarded the President’s Award for Excellence, and had a string of firsts in the military as an Ethiopian-Israeli, including being the first team leader, the first company commander, the first deputy battalion commander, and the first Ethiopian immigrant to achieve the rank of lieutenant colonel. He dreams of becoming a full colonel.
“On one hand, it is a source of pride for the [Ethiopian] community and proof that anything is possible and the sky is the limit,” Shankur said Monday, a day before a protest in Tel Aviv of Ethiopian-Israelis calling for an end to racist treatment turned violent.
“On the other hand, one’s racial background should be irrelevant. Every time I see a story in the news about a murder within a family, I pray, ‘Just don’t say it was an Ethiopian family.’ Why does that have to be emphasized? It is enraging, and it sets people apart, and that should not be allowed.”
Shankur says that walking around in and out of uniform is a drastically different experience.
“If I walk around Tel Aviv without my uniform and there is some act of violence or a murder, I will be the first person police will stop. And that is only because I am black,” he said.
Despite the many successes and way he has paved for other Ethiopian-Israelis, Shankur does not for a second forget the difficulties his family members and friends have to deal with.
“I know that the moment I take off this uniform, I will no longer be that successful Lt. Col. Shankur from the IDF, whose name precedes him. I will be Zion the Ethiopian, who will not be able to easily get into any club in Tel Aviv,” he said.