The Palmach, an acronym for “Pelugot Hamahatz,” meaning striking force, was established as part of the Haganah on May 19, 1941, due to fears of a German invasion of Palestine. The force originally consisted of nine assault companies: three in the northern Galilee, two in central Galilee, two in southern Galilee, and one in Jerusalem. Like the kibbutz movement, the Palmach promoted the values of mutual responsibility, assistance, sacrifice and contribution to the greater good. In fact, Palmach bases were situated on kibbutzim, so members of the Palmach were responsible for their agricultural tasks as well as their military training exercises. This social framework created by the Palmach was considered to be the core of the Sabra, or native born Israeli.
The Palmach launched pre-emptive strikes into Syrian and Lebanese territory, frequently sending members fluent in Arabic in Arab dress into Syria and Lebanon to sabotage and scout targets. The Palmach grew to 12 companies. It played a central role during the War of Independence, the height of Palmach activity. Of the 12 Haganah brigades, three were Palmach brigades, considered the “tip of the spear” during the war and in the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces.