Israel Table of Contents
The Pioneer Fighting Youth (Noar Halutzi Lohem--Nahal) was an organization that combined military service with agricultural training in a tradition that recalled the vision of the original Zionist pioneers. The primary activity of Nahal, one of the "functional commands" within the IDF organizational structure, was the establishment and maintenance of military and agricultural outposts or settlements. Nahal's military missions were to provide advance warning, to serve as a first line of defense against ground attack along the borders, to prevent infiltration, and to assist and support Israeli occupation authorities in the territories. Its nonmilitary missions were to develop previously unused land for agriculture, to assist in the socialization of immigrant and delinquent youth, and, since 1967, to assert Israeli rule in the immediate area surrounding new settlements. Many military commanders, however, felt that the program siphoned off some of the best quality recruits for lower priority duty. Under pressure from the army, the system was altered so that only about one-third of a conscript's service was in agricultural training and on a kibbutz, the remaining time being devoted to regular military activities.
In 1988 Nahal had an estimated total strength of 5,000 men and women who had volunteered upon call-up. The basic unit was the platoon, which ranged from about twenty to eighty young people depending on assignment. A small headquarters served as a command element for a number of platoons located in the same general area. Platoons were assigned either to reinforce existing frontier settlements or to establish new ones in areas unsuitable for development by the civilian population. Strategic considerations were fundamental in selecting locations for Nahal units. Some sites were later abandoned as no longer useful; others became permanent civilian settlements.
Data as of December 1988