Phantoms of the Mountain – The Elite Alpine Unit

The Alpine Unit (Hebrew: ‘Alpinistim’) is the elite winter-climate warfare unit of the IDF. Its purpose: a commando force specially trained to operate under conditions of snow, sleet, and dangerous weather uncommon to Israel.

The unit was created in 1974 as a response to the events of the Yom-Kippur War, when Syrian forces captured Mt. Hermon, Israel’s northernmost outpost. Since then it has remained one of the most elite and classified units of the IDF. It is comprised entirely of volunteer reserve soldiers who served in elite units such as Egoz and Sayeret Golani.

Alpine Unit exercise on Hermon

Alpine Unit exercise on Mt Hermon

Besides their normal training of shooting while riding at high speeds on skis, snowmobiles or Sno-Cats, soldiers of the Alpine Unit also function as a mountain rescue force on Mount Hermon. The unit’s special expertise has been so valuable, both in contributing to Israel’s defense as well as saving lives, that in 2005 its commander, Lt. Col. Shimon Pariente, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Commander of the Ground Forces for his work. The unit’s soldiers are also known as enthusiastic volunteers, and invite children diagnosed with cancer for a fun day at the Hermon 40-45 times a year.

Alpine Unit exercise on Mount Hermon

Can you spot them?

The Israeli winter is usually pretty lightweight – the Hermon is snow-capped only during certain parts of the year. Yesterday, following a particularly heavy day of snow, the Alpine Unit soldiers opened up and allowed themselves to be documented in action. For more pictures, check out our Flickr.

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