Abd el-Majid Hidr (Arabic: عبد الماجد حيدر) was born in Bedouin village of Na’ura, in the Gilboa region of northern Israel. His family were Muslim Bedouin of the Mazarib tribe.
In May 1948, he enlisted in the IDF and changed his name to Amos Yarkoni, saying that there were several reasons for replacing the name: The name Yarkoni was easier to pronounce by his comrades in arms, mostly Jewish, and security reasons.
He served in a number of units during the War of Independence, eventually settling in the Minorities Unit, and proved himself to be an excellent tracker and patrolman. In 1953, he passed the Officer’s Course and went on to become the Commanding Officer of the Minorities Unit.
Later the IDF tracking and counter-terrorism unit was formed under his guidance and command. The unit was named “Shaked” (Shomrei Kav ha Darom, Guardians of the Southern Border)
The unit fielded both Jews and non-Jews, yet when it came to Bedouin recruits, Amos was careful to accept only Bedouins from northern Israel (rather than the south of the country), so that they would not have to fight against their tribal brethren. He was based in the Negev for many years, and was involved in countless operations. He was wounded many times, and his body was peppered with bullet and shrapnel wounds. He lost his right hand in combat in November 1959, and was badly wounded in the leg in an explosion.
In 1961, after his recovery, he was re-appointed as Commanding Officer of the Shaked Battalion. At the time, the Military Commander commented that “if Moshe Dayan could be the Ramatkal (Chief of General Staff) without an eye, we can have a Battalion Commander with a prosthetic hand”.
Even by this stage, many Israelis did not know that Amos Yarkoni was not Jewish: most simply assumed he was a Jew from an Arab country. A running joke among those who did know was “Fouad the Jew and Amos the Bedouin”, referring to the two lead officers of counter-insurgency in the Jordan Valley: “Fouad” Ben-Eliezer, an Iraqi-born Jew with an Arabic name, and Amos Yarkoni, a Bedouin with a typically Sabra/Israeli name.
During the Six-Day War (1967), Yarkoni served on the Sinai front. After years of distinguished service, Yarkoni retired from the IDF in 1969.