Nahal (Hebrew: נח"ל) (acronym of Noar Halutzi Lohem, lit. Fighting Pioneer Youth) refers to a paramilitary Israel Defense Forces program that combines military service and the establishment of agricultural settlements, often in peripheral areas. During the 1990s, the program changed its objectives and now combines military service with mostly social welfare and informal education projects such as youth movement activities. 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.
Members of Nahal units, known as garinei Nahal (Nahal seeds) have served together in various army units, most famously in the Nahal Mutznakh (Airborne Nahal) battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade, the reserve battalion of which was instrumental in the Israeli victory in the Battle of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. Many settlements founded by Nahal units in Galilee, the Negev, and the West Bank are still thriving today, including settlements formerly located 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.
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 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. 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 or the Nahal Entertainment Troupe) is a military music troupe known for its Eretz Israel songs. Founded in 1950, it has become an integral part in Israeli military culture. It was the second major band to be founded in the State of Israel after the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra. In the early 1960s, there were many changes in the band, especially in the musical production. The accordion was joined by percussion, as well as brass and wind instruments. In April 1978, some songs by the band; as well as some people that were once in the band; were featured on The Band, a comedic musical film about the band in 1968 during the War of Attrition. The band has also been featured on the Israeli telenovela HaShir Shelanu. The band has made multiple albums, including From Nahal With Love (1966), The Nahal Is Coming (1967) and The Twenty One Program (1969). Many Israeli singers and entertainers began their careers in Lahakat HaNahal, among them Tuvia Tzafir, Neomy Polani and Gidi Gov.
Most of the members of the band Kaveret were formerly members of the Nahal Band.
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.