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IDF Infantry Corps: Nachal Infantry Brigade

Nahal Insignia
Nachal Brigade Logo

Nachal (Heb. נַחַ״ל, Noar Ḥalutzi Loḥem; Fighting Pioneer Youth) is a military cadre unique to Israel. It is a framework which combines military service in a combat unit with civilian service in a newly founded kibbutz or moshav.


The Nachal brigade was founded in 1948 by David Ben-Gurion, as a natural progression of the traditional pioneer "Tower and Stockade" unit of the Palmach and Lehi. "Nachal" is the acronym for the pioneer warrior youths and was one of the first groups to settle the Land of Israel. The goal of the "Nachal Garinim" (a 'cell' of a larger Israeli youth social welfare movement) was to supply soldiers with large amounts of military resources as well as providing the basic needs for the founding of kibbutzim and new communities.

The Nachal Headquarters incorporated both the Nachal military brigade and the civilian Nachal Garin. Until ten years ago, Nachal was made up of mostly soldiers from various Israeli youth movements. Nowadays, most of the new immigrants who enlist into the IDF are conscripted into the Nachal brigade. The new immigrants find the Nachal brigade an essential stepping-stone for their integration into Israeli society. They are greatly admired for their high level of motivation. In addition the Nachal brigade accepts specific students for specialized education programs.

Nearly 108 communities, kibbutzim and settlements were originally developed by Nachal. These settlements were intended to strengthen the borders of Israel. In the years following the Six Day War, Nachal had a vital mission in settling land to offset the attacks of their neighboring enemies. The Nachal settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Arava region were one of the most important factors blocking Jordan from joining the other Arab countries in their fight against Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The Nachal brigade (the combat brigade), was later transferred from Central Command and is now an independent body.

Recent Developments

The Nachal brigade was established in 1982 and is one of the youngest of the Infantry Corps brigades. The immediacy of its founding was due to the severe lack of Infantry Corps brigades needed to collaborate with the Paratroop, Golan and Givati brigades in implementing their operations. It was decided to erect a headquarters and two battalions as part of the first stage of the brigade's founding. The conclusion of the brigade's training was celebrated with a ceremony for the founding of the new brigade. In January 1983, the two battalions were unified into one called the "Basalt" battalion. In addition, two routine security battalions, "Granite" and "Shacham" which were founded in 1976 and were responsible for routine security in the Jordan Valley and the northern Israel, joined the new Nachal brigade.

In the last decade, Nachal underwent many fundamental changes. The brigade formed three courses of service. The most identifiable course is like that of the other Infantry Corps brigades and includes basic training, advanced training, combat unit service, service near the border, and command posts. The second course contains only three percent of the Nachal soldiers who are slated for command positions. The third course pertains to the Garin. After basic and advanced training the soldiers serve eight months in the civilian sector. Despite the public questioning of the relevance of this service in today's society, the number of volunteers to this third course has swelled in the past number of years.

It should be noted that many of the Nachal brigade soldiers volunteer for communal work in open cities and preferred national areas. The Nachal brigade proves that the military's power does not only lie in the security aspect but also extends to helping settle undeveloped land as well. Nachal has left its significant imprint on the history of Israel and its renowned reputation highlights an idealism imbued with tremendous motivation.

Sources: Israel Defense Forces