Richard Melson

March 2006

Israel SF Units: NAHAL

Nahal Brigade

Nahal (pron. Na'hal) -(Hebrew)

1. Acronym for No'ar Halutzi Lo'hem - Fighting Pioneer Youth.

A branch of the IDF that combines agricultural work and military service. 

Active: 1982

Allegiance: Branch: Army Infantry

Role: Combat service for distinct population

(Haredi Jews, Moshavniks, New Immigrants etc)

Command structure: Israel Centeral Command

Current commander: Brigadier General Roni Numa

In the Israeli Defense Forces,

the rank of Brigadier General is called Tat Aluf and is the third highest rank,

below Aluf (Major General) and Rav Aluf (Lieutenant General or General).

Motto: "The Human Advantage"

Colors: Light Green berets

March: "Ha-Nachal Kan" ("The Nachal is here")

Notable battles or wars: Operation Peace for Galilee

Nahal, a Hebrew acronym for Noar Halutzi Lohem (lit. Fighting Pioneer Youth), refers historically to a program for Israeli youth that allows them to combine their compulsory three-year military service with volunteer-type 'civilian' service - organizing social welfare projects in neighborhoods and towns suffering from socioeconomic difficulties, acting as counselors for youth organizations, or founding and developing new agricultural settlements.

There is a general Nahal command which organizes and coordinates these projects, and also other educational endeavours such as Gadna, a week-long 'introduction' to the military for high-schoolers in which they become acquainted with the history, traditions, and routines of the military that they are about to join.

Nahal is also the name of one of the Israel Defence Forces infantry regiments, along with Golani, Givati, Tzanhanim (Paratroopers), and others. In addition there is an infantry unit formerly associated with the Nahal command called Karakal  that allows women to serve as combat soldiers alongside men (the first IDF infantry unit to do so). Lastly, there is another infantry unit formerly associated with the Nahal command called Nahal Haredi, an attempt by the IDF to reach out to the ultra-religious community and persuade them to serve in the military (most orthodox Israelis are exempt from military service).

Nahal Haredi, which has recently changed its name to Netzah Yehuda, combines regular infantry service with religious elements and allows orthodox Israeli youth to complete their service in an ideal religious environment (special kosher food, religious instruction, etc.).

The history of the Nahal reaches all the way back to the early days of the Jewish state. In 1948, in a famous letter, a gar'in (seed) committee sent a letter to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion requesting that he allow all gar'in members to enlist into military service as a group, instead of being split up at random into different units according to the military's needs. A gar'in is essentially a 'cell' of a larger youth movement, such as the Israeli Scouts, usually formed by youths of high school age in order to take part in various public welfare activities. In the years before and slightly after the creation of Israel, gar'inim were mainly involved in settlement, but have expanded their activities to all manner of charitable volunteerism. Gar'inim are usually tightly knight groups, identified often with communist and/or democratic socialist philosophies, and continue living together on communes for many years, sometimes decades, after their military service, though this has become less common. In response to the letter, Ben-Gurion created the Nahal program, which allowed the gar'inim to combine their military service with volunteerism. Gar'inei Nahal served together in various army units, most famously in the Nahal Mutznach battalion (Airborne Nahal) of the Paratroopers Regiment, the reserve battalion of which was instrumental in the Israeli victory in the Battle of Jerusalem during the Six Day War (1967).

Nahal settlements can be found in the Galilee, the Negev, and the West Bank

(as well as formerly in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip).

As of 2006, Nahal may refer to one or more of the following service programs:

Nahal Infantry Regiment Israel

March 2006