IDF Mistaravim (YAMAS)

Little is known about one of the most secret units of Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli Border Police called Mistaravim. Mistaravim is a secretive unit

Eric Sof

Mistaravim (YAMAS) operative on undercover mission

Little is known about one of the most secret units of Israeli Defense Forces and Israeli Border Police called Mistaravim. Mistaravim is a secretive unit that uses disguise and surprise as its main weapons. The Mistaravim is also known as YAMAS. Their operatives are often sent to undercover mission into Palestinian-controlled territories where they wear Arab clothing to look like Palestinians as they carry out their missions. Mistaravim is commonly tasked with intelligence gathering, law enforcement, hostage rescue missions and counter-terrorist operations.

Mistaravim operatives in undercover operation
Undercover Israeli security personnel (R) and Israeli soldiers detain a wounded Palestinian protester during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Oct. 7, 2015. (photo by REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)

Mistaravim originally had two units: Shimson also known as Unit 367 (operated in Gaza Strip) and Duvdevan (operated in West Bank). The Shimson unit was later disbanded and it’s members were used to in creating the EGOZ unit. The Mistaravim unit was created in 1988, in a time of dire need. The first members came from Shayetet 13.

Mista’Aravim is the Hebrew word or phrase meaning ” to become an Arab.”

Members of Mistaravim dress in traditional Arab clothing in an effort to blend in and neutralize various threats, such the tasks to blend with protesters, identify the violent ones and detainee them. Not only do they dress like Arabs, the Mistaravim operators are trained to act and think like them.

Providing various missions for IDF, they are able to move around more effectively than traditionally dressed IDF soldiers and operate without attracting attention. For showcase demonstration of their effectiveness, a Mistaravim operative approached to Defense Minister Moshe Arens and a group of high-ranking IDF officials, going through security. He was declared “clear” when he showed up his gear. The security team from Shin Bet was understandably upset when they found out that they had missed a heavily armed operator, but they were fortunate such talent was on their side.

The Mistaravim training

The Mistaravim soldiers undergo a different training than regular IDF special forces due to the different nature of their operations. Because they are mainly operating in crowded cities in small groups, the normal training regiment for standard infantry and long-range patrol is cut down to 2-3 weeks. Due to the ever-changing pattern of streets and buildings in their area of operations, they focus on real-time drone and satellite photo navigation.

In addition, an extensive special designed course is taught on how to blend in, covering such things as customs, dress, makeup techniques to change appearances, and languages. Every member learns to master the Palestinian dialect and customs. Also different, more time is spent on unarmed combat than normal. This is due to the Mistaravim operations in highly crowded areas where single gunfire can cause more civilian casualties than enemy ones.

Training for Mistaravim is about fifteen months:

  • Four months basic infantry training in the Mitkan Adam army base – the IDF Special Training Center.
  • Two and a half months of advanced infantry training in the same base.
  • Two months of the unit’s basic training, which focus on advanced urban navigation exercises and the beginning of counter-terrorism training.
  • Four months Mista’arvim course, which covers everything from learning Arab traditions, language and way of thought to civilian camouflage (hair dying, contact lenses, Arab clothing).
  • One-month courses – sniper, driving and different instructors courses.

Members of Mistaravim are often armed with small weapons such as pistols and submachine guns (Micro-UZI) that are easily concealed and carried. They also use short-barreled M-16’s assault rifles and snipers when firepower is more crucial than conceal ability. All operatives from Mistaravim are proficient at close quarters combat and have been trained with the ability to hit targets while running through obstacles.

Eric Sof

Eric Sof holds a master's degree in Political Science, specializing in International Peacekeeping Studies. He has over a decade of experience as a former member of an elite counterterrorism unit. Additionally, he is a firearms instructor and currently serves as a member of the SWAT unit.


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