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Nahal (Hebrew: נח"ל) (acronym of Noar Halutzi Lohem, lit. Fighting Pioneer Youth) refers to an Israel Defense Forces program that combines military service and establishment of new agricultural settlements, often in outlying areas. Later, the program branched out into volunteering and social welfare projects. Its groups of soldiers formed the core of the Nahal Infantry Brigade.
In 1948, a gar'in (core group) of Jewish pioneers wrote to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion requesting that members be allowed to do their military service as a group rather than being split up into different units at random. In response to this letter, Ben-Gurion created the Nahal program, which combined military service and farming.
Some 108 kibbutzim and agricultural settlements were established by the Nahal, many of them on Israel's borders. Nahal settlements in the Jordan Valley and the Arabah played an important role in Jordan's decision not to join the other Arab countries in attacking Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Gar'inei Nahal have served together in various army units, most famously in the Nahal Mutznakh (Airborne Nahal) battalion of the Paratroopers (Tzanhanim) Brigade, the reserve battalion of which was instrumental in the Israeli victory in the Battle of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War (1967). Also, many Nahal-founded settlements are still thriving today in the Galilee, the Negev, and the West Bank (as well as formerly in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip). Today, a gar'in is usually a group formed by a youth movement, such as the Israeli Scouts, for the purpose of volunteer work.
Nahal and Youth Command
Today, there are two distinct units carrying on the historical tradition and name of the Nahal. The first is a large, non-combat command belonging to the IDF Education Corps, whose primary responsibility is to organize and coordinate the volunteer-type programs and activities that made the original Nahal unit famous in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This command has a full staff of educational officers and soldiers, and also sponsors other 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.
Lahakat HaNahal (The Nahal Band), a military music troupe known for its canonical Eretz Israel songs which have become classics. Many Israeli singers and entertainers began their careers in Lahakat HaNahal, among them Tuvya Tzafir, Neomy Polani and Gidi Gov. The band was featured on the Israeli telenovela HaShir Shelanu.
Nahal infantry brigade
The Nahal Brigade was formed around core groups of Airborne Nahal soldiers in 1982 due to the growing need for infantry manpower in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War. As a result, it maintains parts of the Nahal insignia and Nahal groups continue to serve there.
Awards and recognition
- Nahal Brigade
- "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1984 (in Hebrew)". Retrieved July 9, 2009.
- Official IDF website section on Nahal Brigade 
- Official Haredi Nahal Website
- Official Nahal Website (Hebrew Only)