Gadna (Hebrew: גדנ"ע) is an Israeli military program to prepare youth for their mandatory military service in the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police. A one week program of discipline and military learning run mostly by soldiers of the Nahal infantry brigade, as well as by soldiers recruited and trained especially for this matter. Gadna hosts an estimated 19,000 Israeli youth annually, as well as numerous foreign youths.
Gadna, an abbreviation for Gdudei No'ar (Hebrew: גדודי נוער; lit. youth battalions), was created before the Israeli declaration of independence. Trainees originally served as combatants for all intents and purposes, actively participating in the 1948 Palestine War, particularly on the Jerusalem front.
The commanders, the "Mefakdim" or "Mefakdot" (מפקדים or מפקדות, masculine and feminine plurals), who are sergeants and officers, wear either the green beret of the Nahal infantry brigade, (though they do not have the infantry badge on their beret, or the Nahal shoulder tag) or the general IDF green beret, wearing the Education and Youth Corps badge and tag instead. The commanders wear a brown braid on their left shoulders. Trainees in Gadna are issued uniforms consisting of fatigue or B uniform ("Bet Uniforms", מדי ב) pants and a shirt, a military belt, a canteen, and a canteen holder. Trainees do not receive military shoes. Upon arrival, trainees are given hats which must be worn at all times. Trainees with long hair (boys and girls as one) must always tie their hair.
Living in army tents or barracks, the youth are organized into squads. The squad has two leaders chosen by the commander. The highest youth is taken under the base officer's wing and wears a braid on their left shoulder, or multi-colored (striped) epaulets. If they wear the braid they wear the same color epaulet as the rest of their unit. The second highest youth commander is the sergeant. They wear special epaulets, usually black, and they never wear a braid.
The Gadna program is subordinate to the Magen division of the Education and Youth Corps.
Numerous bases were related to the Gadna program over the years, although as of 2008, only 3 operational Gadna bases remain:
- Sdeh Boker Gadna Base, in the Negev desert (the largest)
- Tzalmon Gadna Base, in the Lower Galilee
- Joara Gadna Base, on the Plains of Manasseh (the smallest)
Plans exist to upgrade and renovate these bases, which will likely be carried out before the 2009–10 school year.
While the Gadna program has been criticized as "overly militaristic" by certain educators and professors in Israel, the Education and Youth Corps has prepared a program which would see more militaristic and combatant values inserted into the lessons conducted in the program, although less emphasis will be put on the physical aspect of the program.
- Kashti, Or (2007-01-01). "New IDF Gadna youth program criticized as overly militaristic". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
- "Gadna". Zionism-Israel.com. Retrieved 2008-08-15.
- Danieli, Michal (November 27, 2009). "So What Exactly is Gadna?". Bamahane (3014): p. 34. (Hebrew)
- Belekh, Dor (2008-08-13). "Serving the Gadna". Bamahane. Retrieved 2008-08-15. (Hebrew)