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Mista'arvim[1] (Hebrew: מסתערבים; Arabic: مستعربين, romanizedmusta'ribīn), also spelled mista'aravim,[2] is the name given to counter-terrorism units of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Border Police, and Israel Police who operate undercover. Such units are specifically trained to assimilate among the local Arab population. They are commonly tasked with performing intelligence gathering, law enforcement, hostage rescue and counter-terrorism, and to use disguise and surprise as their main weapons.[1][2]

The name is derived from the Arabic "Musta'arabi", meaning "those who live among the Arabs", which refers to the Musta'arabi Jews, Arabic-speaking Jews who lived in the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab rule in the 7th century,[3] prior to the arrival of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews following their expulsion from Spain in 1492.


The Hebrew mista'arvim derives from the Arabic مستعربين mustaʿribīn, literally "those who live among the Arabs," or simply "Arabized."[1] Israeli Musta'ribeen are special forces who pose undercover as Arabs and operate within Arab societies to accomplish their missions.[4] Musta'ribeen dress as Arabs, know the customs and etiquette of Arab society and speak fluent Arabic, in the appropriate dialect. Musta'ribeen have participated in public demonstrations and may support the protests as if they were demonstrators.[4][5]

Gary Spedding, a consultant on the Middle East, said that the activity of Musta'ribeen "allows the Israeli military and border police to identify protesters they wish to arrest and detain. Israeli affairs expert Antoine Shalhat claimed that the main missions of the Musta'ribeen "include gathering intelligence and counterterrorist operations."[4]


Training for these units consumes about fifteen months:[2]

  • Four months basic infantry training at 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 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 dyeing, contact lenses, clothing).
  • One-month courses – sniper, driving and different instructor courses.

Known units[edit]

The first musta'ribeen unit, known as the "Arab Department" (Ha-Machlaka Ha-Aravit), was established in 1942[4] as a unit of the Palmach. Other musta'ribeen groups in Israel have included:


In his book, Spies of No Country, Matti Friedman tells the history of a pre-statehood unit operating in Syria.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Yoav Zitun (2012-02-05). "Border Guard to join IDF forces on Israel-Egypt border". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  2. ^ a b c "IDF Mista'Aravim". special-ops.org. 2013-10-23. Archived from the original on 2015-10-11.
  3. ^ "Israeli Infiltration Shocks Hamas in Aftermath of Shootout | SOFREP Israeli Infiltration Shocks Hamas in Aftermath of Shootout".
  4. ^ a b c d e f Linah Alsaafin (2018-04-10). "Musta'ribeen, Israel's agents who pose as Palestinians". aljazeera. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  5. ^ Mel Frykberg (2015-11-16). "Israeli forces kill Palestinians at Qalandiya camp". aljazeera. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  6. ^ "IDF Mistaravim (YAMAS)". 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Gilad Erdan visits 'Mista'arvim' undercover special forces unit".
  8. ^ fisher79 (2012-08-15). "new kitbash Israeli Unit Gideonim (Unit 33)". onesixthwarriors.com. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  9. ^ Meyer, Lily (7 March 2019). "'Spies Of No Country' Offers Nuanced Understanding Of Israel's Complexity". National Public Radio. Retrieved 26 March 2019.

External links[edit]