Kasia had never before been to an army base, or near weapons, or met a military commander. On Monday, however, at the age of 50, she stood to attention on the parade ground of the Gadna's Juara base and waited for orders from a soldier 30 years her junior. The Gadna is a military program that prepares youth for military service in the Israel Defense Forces.
"I turned somersaults in order to get here and understand what my son is going through," Kasia said excitedly. "He enlisted (in the IDF) just yesterday."
Along with another 160 mothers and fathers of soldiers and soldiers-to-be from Israel's Ethiopian community, Kasia arrived at the Gadna base to participate in a special program designed to give the parents a small taste of army life.
For 24 hours, the mothers and fathers donned uniforms, performed drills, stood in formation, underwent lessons in discipline and field training and, primarily, got a sense of what their children go through during their military service.
A joint effort on the part of the Aluma organization, the Defense Ministry and the IDF's Education Corps, the program was initiated in light of figures showing that some 22 percent of soldiers from the Ethiopian community drop out the army, as opposed to the overall national average of 17.5 percent.
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In addition, the percentage of soldiers from among the Ethiopian community who end up in military prisons is three times higher than the general average.
"These parents are relatively uninvolved in their sons' and daughters' service in the IDF; some of them haven't served in the army," said Natalie, a Gadna instructor of Ethiopian descent.
"They ask me: 'Do you know my son? He's in the army too.' And when I tell them I don't, they're surprised; and I explain to them that the army is big and no one knows everyone. I teach them what their kids are doing to make things easier for them and also to allow them to support them."
But not everything went smoothly at the Gadna base on Monday. Towards the end of the day, during a talk with the IDF's chief education officer, Brigadier General Avner Paz-Tzuk, one of the mothers angrily asked why the army had waited a week before condemning the police assault on the Ethiopian Israeli soldier last month.
"We may have been wrong," the brigadier general replied. "Maybe we should have condemned the assault sooner."
"I got an idea of what the army is all about and what my son is doing," she said. "And now I will help him more to stay there and not to give up."