SpyCast 10.24.23
Ep 608 | 10.24.23

“Sayeret Matkal: Israel’s Top-Secret Elite Commando Unit” – with Aviram Halevi

Show Notes


Lt. Col. (ret.) Aviram Halevi (LinkedIn) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss Israel’s top secret commando unit, Sayeret Matkal. Aviram formerly served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Sayeret Matkal. 

What You’ll Learn


  • The origins of Sayeret Matkal
  • Collaboration across Israeli intelligence 
  • Operation Spring of Youth & the Entebbe Raid
  • Intelligence & hostage retrieval


  • The value of teamwork
  • No room for fear 

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew was joined by Aviram Halevi, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s top-secret elite commando unit. Aviram served over two decades in various branches of Israeli intelligence, and recently co-wrote the book Sayeret Matkal: The Greatest Operations of Israel's Elite Commandos. Andrew and Aviram discuss the origins and history of the unit, including the stories of some of Sayeret Matkal’s most notable operations. 

This episode is third in our 5-part series on Israeli Intelligence. We encourage listeners to begin the series with a crash course in Israeli intelligence with Erez David Maisel, the check out our episodes with Uzi Arad, former National Security Advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu, and Uri Bar-Joseph, scholar and expert on the intelligence failure of the Yom Kippur War. 


Sayeret Matkal’s motto is “Who Dares Wins” – A motto first used by Britain’s Special Air Service during World War II. Since then, 11 other elite special forces units have also adopted the saying, including units from France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Tunisia, Rhodesia, Greece, Cyrus, Latvia, Oman, and India.  

Quotes of the Week

“What makes [Sayeret Matkal] so unique? The fact is that these people, and you mentioned that before, we are not rambos and there is no ramboism in the unit in Sayeret Matkal. On the contrary, the basic building block of the Sayeret is the team. The team is what you're kind of imprinted with once you get drafted. And this will be your designation forever. I'm team Raz. Raz was my commander, and my soldiers are team Aviram for the rest of their lives.” – Aviram Halevi.




Black Ops: The Life of a Legendary CIA Shadow Warrior with Ric Prado (2022)

*Beginner Resources*



  • Sayeret Matkal: The Greatest Operations of Israel's Elite Commandos, A. Shur & A. Halevi (Skyhorse, 2023)
  • No Mission Is Impossible: The Death-Defying Missions of the Israeli Special Forces, M. Bar-Zohar & N. Mishal (Ecco, 2016) 
  • Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, the Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History, S. David (Little, Brown and Company, 2015)
  • Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, G. Jonas (Simon & Schuster, 2005) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Elite commando units like Sayeret Matkal, while not as focused on intelligence, go back as far as military history. To read about the special forces of antiquity, check out Persia’s The Immortals, Byzantine’s Tagma, and Rome’s Extraordinarii.