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Duvdevan Unit

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Duvdevan (Hebrew: דובדבן‎; lit. cherry) is an elite special forces unit within the Israel Defense Forces, directly subordinate to the West Bank Division. Duvdevan are particularly noted for conducting undercover operations against militants in urban areas. During these operations, Duvdevan soldiers typically drive modified civilian vehicles and wear Arab civilian clothes as a disguise.[1]

Duvdevan is one of the most prestigious units of the IDF, and thus recruitment to it is highly desirable among pre-recruitment age youths in Israel.

The Duvdevan unit motto: (Hebrew: כִּי בְתַחְבֻּלוֹת, תַּעֲשֶׂה-לְּךָ מִלְחָמָה. ) "For by clever deception thou shalt wage war."

The unit is actually recognized with only a unit identity number and Duvdevan is simply the nickname given to the unit. The commando units of the IDF are known as the katzefet, or cream in English, of the combat forces. In Duvdevan's short 20 year history it has stood above and beyond the traditional special units of the IDF and was thus nicknamed. The unit is unique in several ways: it is the only IDF unit (not including police units) that has no war time mission, just day-to-day hit and run operations. The unit, unlike other SF units, can operate in more than one place at once, and can operate independently. This means providing its own intelligence, backup, rescue, medical teams, extraction, snipers, demolitions, etc... The unit can perform high-risk arrests, raids, targeted assassination, kidnappings and a range of other urban warfare operations.

The unit falls under the command of the Judea and Samaria division (West Bank Division) of the IDF. This means the unit is under an area command, not a manpower or brigade command like most other Israeli Army units. This allows the unit to operate anywhere in the country and nowhere specific, unlike other special units that are attached to brigades, like Egoz to the Golani Brigade, Maglan to the Paratroopers Brigade, or Oketz and Lotar to the Adam army base. Only Duvdevan and Sayeret Matkal are authorized to wear their uniforms without identifying shoulder tabs. The unit is most similar to the Yamam and Yamas-Iosh police units.

The unit underwent some major changes around 2002. They are as follows:

  1. The unit's basic training was relocated to the paratrooper's base. It used to be held independently at the Adam base along with Rescue Unit 669 and Oketz. When 2 men died in training the basic training was delegated to the infantry. Basic training is 7 months and is done with the Tzanchanim.
  2. Special units within Duvdevan were opened but remained classified.
  3. The unit's base was relocated and newly built. It now stands alone and independently - most IDF units have their base within a larger base.
  4. Finally the selection process to enter the unit and start the year and a half training process was changed from an independent secret selection process to a two phase motivation test. The first test when candidates are still civilians lasting 24 hours, the second test lasting 5 days after the men are drafted into the army, followed by interviews.

The unit prides itself on being the spearhead of Israeli counter terror operations. In 2002 the unit was awarded as such by the prime minister for having the most significant effect on the war on terror. The Duvdevan unit is regarded as one of the world's most successful counter-terror units. In January 2008, the unit successfully assassinated a major Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank.


Further reading

  • Cohen, Aaron; Century, Douglas (2008). Brotherhood of Warriors: Behind Enemy Lines with a Commando in One of the World's Most Elite Counterterrorism Units. New York: Ecco, HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061236150. 


  1. Steve Macko, The IDF Duvedevan Unit, Emergency Response & Research Institute (August 11, 1997)

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