Golani Infantry Brigade Formed, 1948
Updated: Mar 1, 2021
On This Day in Jewish History: February 22, 1948
On this day the Golani Brigade was first established in 1948. Of all of the Israel Defense Forces’ brigades, Golani is the only one that can trace its history all the way back to the founding of the Jewish State and has played key roles in most of Israel’s historic conflicts. The brigade is under the authority of the Northern Command and is made up of four battalions that protect Judea, Samaria, and each of Israel’s borders. From the battles in the Sinai, the capture of the Golan Heights, the recapture of Mount Hermon, to the daring rescue of hostages in Entebbe, to modern conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza, Golani is always there and has paid a heavy price for defending their country. The spring of 1948, the British Mandate over Palestine was ending and the stage was set for the thunderous drama that would soon unfold. The Haganah, which was the Jewish armed resistance in Palestine, felt the need to reorganize the structure of their militia and under Plan Dalet, divided them into six different regional brigades. Levanoni defended the north, Alexandroni watched over the Sharon, Kiryati protected Tel-Aviv and its regions, Etzioni fought in Jerusalem, and the Givati covered the Shfela. Later, the Levanoni was split into two brigades, Carmeli in the northwest and the Golani Brigade watched over the northeast of Israel. Golani’s range would usually span the regions of Galilee, Jezreel, and the Jordan and Hula valleys. Their cities included Safed, Tiberias, Beit She’an and Nazareth. The Golani Brigade was then divided into 5 special battalions. These are the Alon (Oak) or 11th battalion, Barak (Lightning) the 12th, Gideon (named after the Biblical Judge) 13th battalion, Dror and Goren battalions (named after commanders Ya’akov Dror and Moshe Goren) 14th and 15th respectively. Golani’s headquarters was located in Yavne’el. Yellow and green, those are the colors of the Golani Brigade flag, with an olive tree as the symbol of the brigade, although some say it’s an oak tree. The artist was an intelligence officer from Beit Keshet, where olive trees can be seen all over the landscape. Olive trees are known to have strong roots that cling to their native soil, reflecting the historic roots of the Jewish people in their own land. Green symbolizes the hills of Israel’s Galilee region where Golani was first formed, while yellow represents Golani’s participation in capturing what is now modern Eilat on the southern tip of Israel. The first Golani soldiers were mostly farmers whose connection to the soil was bound up with their honor, which is why Golani Brigade uses brown berets symbolizing their connection to the land. From 1947 to 1948 during the war of independence, Golani mostly fought for the capture of strategic cities of Tiberias and Safed among others. During the war Arab armies would often attack kibbutzim (social utopian communities), Golani came to the aid of Kibbutz Degania Alef and Bet in the Battle of the Kinarot Valley. With the aid of the Palmach (elite fighting force of the Haganah), Golani Brigade successfully repelled the Syrian Army. They also defeated the Iraqi army in the south at Gesher. They say the best defense is a good offense, so after the Jordan Valley was secured, the Golani Brigade changed strategies and mounted an offensive campaign against Arab positions. City after city, town after town fell to Israeli sovereignty thanks to the efforts of the Golani Brigade. In December of 48, the Golani were then transferred to the south to participate in Operation Horev, to secure Israel’s border with Egypt. the Six Day War in 1967, the Golani Brigade joined Israeli armored unites in capturing the city of Nablus, but the rest of Golani was concentrated in Israel’s northeast region as they prepared for an aggressive push to capture the Golan Heights from the Syrians. Their efforts were once again successful, but not without sacrifice, trekking across minefields which forced Golani forces to abandon their armored vehicles, progressing to Tel Azaziyat and Tel Fahr on foot, where Syrian forces eventually surrendered after several hours of intense fighting. During the war, 59 soldiers of the Golani Brigade had fallen and 160 were injured. In the years following the Six Day War, Golani Brigade undertook several counter-terrorism operations in Lebanon, Jordan and the Judea-Samaria region, mostly rooting out and crushing members of fedayeen (Palestinian guerilla fighters). After the Munich Massacre of 1972, Israel once again deployed the Golani Brigade in several raids on towns in southern Lebanon, Operation Extended Turmoil targeted fedayeen bases, one of which held over 600 guerilla fighters. On July 4th, 1976, Golani was once again called upon to rescue Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, a daring operation which saw the defeat of Palestinian and German terrorists, and the rescue of the hostages, although three were sadly killed. Heading the operation was none other than Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of future Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Commander of the Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit). Yoni Netanyahu would also give his life during this mission, a sacrifice his family and his nation never forgot. On Yom Kippur, 1973, Golani’s 13th Battalion was overrun on Mount Hermon when Syrian and Egyptian forces launched a surprise attack on the entire country, Golani, as well as the rest of Israel was caught off guard on the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar. The Israel Defense Forces mobilized, and fierce fighting ensued all over the country’s northern and southern borders. By October 10th, 1973, the Golani Brigade had pushed back Syrian forces behind the Purple Line (ceasefire line/border established after 1967) and managed to gain back control of the Golan Heights. The Second Battle of Mount Hermon claimed the lives of 25 Golani soldiers and wounded 57 others, but Hermon would not be liberated until the 21st of October that same year when Israeli paratroopers arrived to reinforce the Golani troops. Golani was intensely active during Operation Peace Over Galilee in 1982, also known as the First Lebanon War, particularly at Nabatieh and the Castle of Beaufort, which was being held by PLO forces. The Golani Brigade was also a crucial part of Operation Defensive Shield after the start of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Operations Cast Lead in Gaza 2009 and Protective Edge in 2014 also saw the heavy participation of young soldiers from the Golani Brigade, and to this day they continue to be Israel’s watchful guardians wherever and whenever they are needed. Out of all of Israel’s Defense Forces, the Golani Brigade leads the charge in defense of Israel and all her people, to live in freedom in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.