Golani Brigade

The Golani brigade was formed on 28 February, 1948 when the Levanoni brigade deployed on Israel’s Lebanese border was divided into two smaller brigades. Golani was stationed in the valleys and hills of the Lower Galilee in northern Israel. Their combatants included members of the Hagannah, residents of settlements in the areas of combat, and enlisted soldiers from all over the country. Prior to the Declaration of Independence, the soldiers of the brigade fought in the areas of Mishmar Ha’emek, Tiberias, Migdal, Zemach and Rosh Pinna. Their mission was to defend the Upper Galilee and the Galilee valleys. They also participated in the victory at Safed in Operation Yiftach. They captured Arab Sejera, and Bet Shean and its environs.

Upon the foundation of the State, Arab armies invaded the country. In the north, this included the Syrian army, the Iraqi army, the Lebanese army, and Kaukji’s irregulars. The Golani brigade was deployed to face this threat, although it had severely depleted ranks and was short of arms. New arrivals to the State of Israel were thrown into the fray; many joined the Golani brigade. The new refugee recruits, though fiercely loyal to the country and proud of their Judaism, were reluctant soldiers. There were economic and social problems ‘at home’ in the transit immigrant camps. The standard of army equipment was poor. The available weapons were Czech rifles, with a built-in magazine that held only five rounds, and Sten machine guns, which were originally designed as cheap throwaways for British paratroopers to use until their ‘real’ weapons were dropped. As for transport, each battalion had one stationwagon, a tender van, and a single truck. One company had their leave stopped by their commander because they dared respond to the battalion CO’s interest in their problems by showing him boots that were tied with string to stop the soles from dropping off. However, the Golani Brigade succeeded in bringing the Syrian columns of armor and infantry to a halt, sometimes through the use of Molotov cocktails and face-to-face combat. Iraqi forces were halted in the Jordan Valley. The guerilla, improvisational tactics that prevailed in the pre-State era were grafted with the Brigade commander’s experience in the British Army to set the tone of Golani combat doctrine.

The Golani brigade took part along with the Seventh armored infantry brigade, and the Carmeli brigade in Operation Dekel (in the Galilee). In this operation, the forces involved captured the Nazareth area from Kaukji’s irregulars. Golani troops, now incorporated into the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces participated in activities to gain control over the entire Galilee in what was called Operation Hiram. This involved counter-thrusts that penetrated as deep as the Litani River in Lebanon.

The Golani brigade also took part in Operation Assaf to take control of the western Negev, and also participated in Operation Horev in which the Egyptians were repelled from Israeli territory. Golani’s final mission in the War of Independence was the successful seizure of the Negev in Operation Ovdah. Golani participated in the capture of the Southern Negev, all the way down to the Red Sea at Eilat.

As part of the organizational changes towards the 21st Century, the Golani Brigade, which was hitherto directly subordinate to GOC Northern Command, was now placed under the command of a formation in the Northern Command.

History of the Golani Brigade

Golani Brigade

Retaliatory Actions

After the war, a large number of new immigrants were absorbed into the brigade, some of whom could not speak Hebrew. The newly-reorganized brigade went into action against the Syrians in 1951, after the Syrians gained control of Tel-Mutila in the north. The Golani force involved suffered high casualties.

The next time Golani went into action was in October 1955 in coordination with the Paratrooper Brigade. Their mission was a retaliatory raid across the border from Nitzana, following recurrent Egyptian provocation.

One month later, they carried out an outstanding joint operation with the Paratroopers against outposts which threatened the Sea of Galilee region.

The 1956 Sinai Campaign

Israel undertook the 1956 Sinai Campaign in response to developments in the international arena. Golani’s mission was to capture the Rafah area, in order to provide Israeli armored forces with a clear road into Egyptian territory.

Golani’s next major activity was in 1960. Following continued Syrian harassment of farmers in the demilitarized zone in northern Israel, a Golani force attacked a Syrian outpost at Tawfiq. Two years later, they carried out another attack against the Nukeib outpost in Syria.

From 1965, the brigade was integrated into ongoing anti-terrorist operations including Shune and Kilat in Jordan, and Hilweh in Lebanon.

The 1967 Six Day War

In the Six Day War Golani troops fought in the Jordan/Syria sector. In Nablus they took part in house-to-house fighting, while on the Golan Heights the brigade was involved in heroic battles at Tel Azizyat and Tel Fahr [see below.] Elsewhere, Golani troops supported armored forces as in the capture of Zaurah and the Banias. Elements of Golani’s Gideon Battalion landed by helicopter on Mt. Hermon.

Golani was now given a new role. The brigade began to reinforce outposts along the Suez Canal, patrolling the length of the new border, and pursuing terrorists into South Lebanon.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War

Just before hostilities broke out, Golani troops were sent to man outposts in the northern sector of the Golan Heights. When war broke out, these outposts came under attack from Syrian infantry and armor,and were subject to air strikes. Golani troops blocked possible transportation routes available to the Syrians, and then went on to take part in joint operations with IDF armored forces. After regaining territories up to the cease-fire line (“the purple line”), Golani joined Rafael Eitan’s division in its thrust into the Syrian heartland.

During the early stages of the war, the Mt. Hermon outpost, known in Israel as “the eyes of the State”, was captured by the Syrians. Due to the strategic importance of the outpost, high priority was placed on its recapture. Golani troops successfully undertook this difficult mission on 22 October. They suffered high casualties in this battle.

Golani at Entebbe

For years Golani was upstaged by the more glamorous, red bereted paratroopers. The Golani brown berets received recognition as an elite force in the 1976 Entebbe Operation. Golani units participated in the spectacular rescue of Israeli nationals after their plane had been hijacked to Uganda. This was not a prize for past achievement but simply acceptance that only the best would go on this mission, and Golani were the best.

Instability in the North

In 1978, following the terrorist attack on the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway, the IDF launched Operation Litani. The objective of the mission was to repel terrorist organizations beyond the Litani river in Lebanon. It was an inter-arm action, in which a major component were the ground forces. The operation enjoyed only limited success, as the terrorist threat was not completely removed.

Continued problems with terrorist incursions from the northern border led to Operation Peace for Galilee (later known as the Lebanon War). The Golani brigade fought on the Nabatiye Heights and in Kfar Sil, but the battle for which Golani became famous in Lebanon was the capture of the Beaufort outpost – a military fort dating back to the crusader period (12th century), that was used as a terrorist base.

Since the Lebanon War, Golani has continued to be a volunteer elite infantry force. They share the humdrum work of patrolling Israel’s borders and facing the dangers of Lebanon together with the Paratroopers and other volunteer units.

The Golani Brigade in the Battle of Tel Fahr

The Golani brigade was deployed along Israel’s northern borders. In the period prior to the Six Day War the Syrians built a complex system of outposts and fortifications facing the Syrians. Two positions, Tel Azizyat and Tel Fahr were part of this system. Tel Azizyat was taken by a flanking maneuver.

On 9th June, 1967 at 14:00 hours, at the same time as armored and infantry forces crossed over the “green line” (1948 cease-fire lines) a Golani’s Barak battalion made their way by mechanized transport to Tel Fahr. The battle plan was to outflank Tel Fahr but the designated approach proved to be inaccessible to the force’s vehicles. A new plan was therefore decided upon which required a frontal assault.

Throughout the force’s approach, it suffered attacks from outposts around the route. Upon the forces’ arrival at the Bourj-Babil – Tel Fahr junction at 14:30, the battalion commander decided to assign part of his force to attacking the Bourj-Babil outpost, which was firing heavily upon the battalion, and preventing it from carrying out its attack effectively. Despite this, the force pressed forward, abandoning damaged and destroyed vehicles along the way.

Upon reaching the foot of the hill on which the outpost was located, the force left its vehicles to approach the outpost on foot. The force was divided into two groups, with each group attacking one of the two peaks on which the outpost was situated. Upon reaching the outer perimeter of the fortifications some soldiers flattened the barbed wire coils by lying down on the wire, thus allowing their colleagues to step on them and proceed into the fort.

The combat then moved to the trenches, where fighting was at short-range, with very high casualties. Many soldiers, including the battalion commander, were hit by Syrian fire.

Six hours after crossing the border, a mechanized force in tracked vehicles arrived at the southern side of the outpost, and a reconnaissance group under the command of the brigade commander arrived at the northern side along with the group assigned to capture Bourj-Babil. Within another half an hour, Golani troops had gained control of Tel Fahr. 34 soldiers fell in the battle: of these were 23 enlisted men and officers of the Barak Battalion.

Battalions of the Golani Brigade

Barak Battalion

Named after the biblical judge and military commander. Upon its establishment in the War of Independence, its area of activity was defined as the Sea of Galilee district, the lower Galilee and the Jordan Valley.

Gideon Battalion

Also named after a mythical judge and military commander. Upon its establishment in the War of Independence, its area of activity was defined as the Sea of Galilee district, the Ein Harod valley region and the Bet Shean valley.

The First Breachers’ Battalion

Originally a battalion in the Givati Brigade, it joined the Golani brigade after the disbanding of Givati in 1956.

“Golani Buds”

A battalion which absorbs new recruits into the brigade.

The Egoz Reconnaissance Unit

This recently-disclosed unit is the elite Golani special forces unit. It has been involved in special anti-terrorist operations in southern Lebanon.