Decoding the IDF Uniform
Updated: Apr 29
We may say we love a man (or woman!) in a uniform, but ever wonder what that uniform really means?
Continue reading if you'd like to learn how to decode the uniform of every soldier you see - like an expert!
There are several different kinds of uniforms worn by IDF soldiers, and each one tells you a little about the soldier’s job or tafkid in Hebrew. The classic olive green uniform worn by most Israeli soldiers is for ground forces, beige uniforms are worn by the Israeli Navy and Air Force soldiers, and the rare white uniform is reserved for navy ceremonies!
Each unit in the IDF has a beret of its own unique color, independent of rank or position. Even if a soldier is serving in special forces within a specific army unit, he or she will wear the beret color of the larger unit, and display some unit pride. Common colors include maroon for Tzanhanim or Paratroopers, Bright green for the Nahal Brigade, and purple for the Givati Brigade (which are some of the more famous on-ground combat units).
During initiation and training completion ceremonies, officers in the Israeli army have a tradition of passing down their own berets to exceptional soldiers, as a token for their hard work, and a public honor!
All berets in the IDF have pins attached to their front, representing the symbol of the corps. For example, the Ramatkal or Chief of Staff in the IDF wears a pin with the emblem of the Israeli Defense Force, the Star of David with a sword wrapped by an olive branch. Many of the emblems of each unit actually reference biblical themes. The Rabbanut Hatzva’it or Military Rabbinate wears a pin with a figure of the Ten Commandments and a sword in the foreground! The IDF's medical unit features a snake around a torch with a Star of David. It is an amazing blend of modern-day Zionism with the pride of our past history as a nation!
Soldiers serving in military prison wear a blank beret with no pins attached.
Depending on a soldier's rank and how much time an Israeli soldier has served in the IDF, he or she receives “dargot,” a symbol of their rank, that is sewn onto the sleeve of their uniform. For each year a soldier serves in the IDF, he or she adds a straight line to his or her uniform.
Next time you walk by a soldier, check out the uniform! You can tell who is "tzair" (young) and who is already a "boger" (older, more seasoned soldier). Senior officers can be identified by a symbol most commonly called a “falafel.” When looked at closely, an officer's rank is symbolized by one, two, or three small trees, but from far away those trees just look like… falafel! And as we know, the more falafel the better!