Why Israeli soldiers wear ‘chef’s hats’ on their helmets

New weapons and equipment equip the IDF for future fights. One simple, odd, but effective bit of kit is the mitznefet.
Miguel Ortiz Avatar
IDF soldier holding a machine gun.
(Agilite courtesy photo)

The Jewish State of Israel has been in a near-constant condition of conflict since its independence in 1948. From the Arab-Israeli conflicts to combat operations in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces have gained a great deal of experience in warfare. From this, Israeli defense companies have developed weapons and equipment to better equip the IDF for future fights. One simple, odd, but effective bit of kit is the mitznefet.

IDF soldier kneeling behind a tree and firing a rifle.
The large helmet cover can be configured in different ways (IDF)

Sometimes referred to as the “chef’s hat” for its visual similarity to the culinary headgear, the mitznefet first entered IDF service in 1994. The helmet cover shares its name with the priestly turban worn by the High Priest of Israel in the Temple of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. The word originates from the Semitic root meaning “to wrap.”

A female IDF soldier sitting and wearing a mitznefet on her helmet.
A soldier of the Caracal Battalion wears a mitznefet on her helmet (IDF)

Is the mitznefet effective?

Larger than the helmet that it covers, the mitznefet breaks up the distinctive outline of a helmeted human head to better conceal a soldier on an open battlefield. Like other helmet covers, it also prevents light from reflecting off the soldier’s protective headgear. The mitznefet provided a tactical advantage to IDF troops during the latter engagements of the South Lebanon conflict.

A IDF soldier wearing a mitznefet and talking on a radio.
Breaking up the outline of the head, the mitznefet is also used in urban environments (IDF)

Made of a mesh fabric, the mitznefet was later made with a two-sided camouflage material that could be reversed; one side for desert environments and the other for woodland environments. In 2013, the Israeli tactical gear manufacturer Agilite announced one that featured the popular MultiCam camouflage pattern.

Two IDF soldiers wearing mitznefets.
The mitznefet has become a distinctly Israeli bit of kit (IDF)

Since its introduction, the mitznefet has become widely used across the IDF from reservists to regular forces and even special forces. While some early covers were homemade, the mitznefet has become a standardized piece of kit in the IDF. Although it has not been formally adopted outside of Israel, largely due to export restrictions, the Agilite MultiCam mitznefet is not export-restricted and is available for commercial purchase, including in the United States.