HI"SH - Field Force

Accessed 28-JUL-2018

Emblem from early 1940s,
designed by Itamar David

The HI"SH, (חי״ש - חיל שדה) the field force of the Haganah organzation during the period from 1939 to 1948, was a clandestine military organzation (hidden from the British Mandate authorities) composed of volunteers with fighting ability from 18 to 26 years of age. The HI"SH had a standard military structure of squads, platoons, companies and battalions, even having brigades before the War of Independence. From November 1947 onwards[1], infantry was the primary military unit of the Hebrew Defense Force and from its brigades the regular brigades of the IDF were established at the end of May 1948.

The soldiers of the HI"SH were young people who studied and worked in cities, moshavot (NB: colonies, rural settlements) and agricultural settlements. Until the outbreak of the War of Independence, the soldiers were not fully mobilized and continued to work their jobs, spending only a few days of each month training and guarding. Some of them used their civilian skills (for example, truck drivers, asphalt pavers and crate makers) in their military positions, to assist in the defense. With the start of the War of Independence on 30 November 1947, the day after the UN resolution on the Partition Plan and the establishment of the state of Israel, all of the soldiers were mobilized for the war. On the eve of the establishment of the IDF, about 10,000 soldiers served in the infantry.[2]

The troops came from all sectors of society, there were townspeople and farmers, secular and religious, officials, farmers and workers with a clear political affiliation but they all accepted the authority of the Zionist leadership (the Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency). But in the popular consciouness, the HI"SH stood in the shadow of the PALMA"CH who were the primary underground force by the mainstream. Even though the HI"SH had twice the number of infantry soldiers and represented a larger part of the public, it was the PALMA"CH that was credited with winning the glorious victory in the War of Independence.

Prominent HI"SH Commanders:
top: Mordechai Maklef (R) and Eitan Avisar (L)
bottom: David Shaltiel(R) and Moshe Carmel

Table of Contents

The Founding of the HI"SH

Notarim of Jewish Settlement Police

The Background

Although the Haganah initially asked for a nationwide organization, by 1936, the local defense branches were strong and the organzation acted as a loose union of local branches, each of which controlled its own manpower. During the 1930s, the Haganah included three districts in the main cities and more than 20 "blocs" (גושים/gushim) that ran the local branches in each region. This organization was a good match for the threats the Yishuv (NB: the Jewish community in pre-state Palestine) faced at the time, the most severe of which was attacks by mobs on Jewish settlements or neighborhoods in times of tension. However, in 1936 the Great Arab Revolt broke out in Palestine and lasted for three years until 1939. In the Arab Revolt, the organized gangs of Arabs targeted isolated Jews in agricultural areas, on highways and wherever else they were found.

The first to deal with the new Arab tactics was Yitzhak Sadeh and Eliahu Ben-Hur (Cohen) of the Jerusalem Branch of the Haganah, who in 1936 organized mobile groups to defend against Arab attack in the area surrounding Jerusalem. Yitzhak Sadeh presented this at a meeting of the Haganah commanders held in 1937 where he said:

"We need an army and not guards, an army and not a police force, an army that is not attached to any one specific location, an army that is national in scope whose job it is to search for the enemy, attack where they are found, attack their bases and take preventive action."
-- Yitzhak Sadeh [3]

In light of their success, the model of the mobile companies that could travel to other communities was adopted. At the end of 1937, the companies officially became part of the field companies (HI"SH) and were renamed PU"SH (פו״ש - פלוגות השדה ) and placed under the national command of Yitzhak Sadeh. However, they did not last long as they were disbanded in February 1939 by Chief of Staff Ya'akov Dori. Some say that the PU"SH were disbanded because of a calm in the security situation and the creation of the Mobile Guard (NB: MA"N מ״ן) which were legal as part of the Notarot (NB: Jewish Police under the Mandate). Others have claimed that the PU"SH were disbanded because of the opposition of some local defense commanders who feared their authority was being eroded and also because of opposition in the Yishuv to the political diversity of the PU"SH.[3]

Since the Arab Revolt was directed not only at the Jews but also at the British, the British agreed to cooperate with the Jewish community to set up a Jewish police force, the Notrot, which had about three thousand policemen who were later organized into the "Jewish Settlement Police". As part of the Notrot, the Jews organized the Mobile Force (MA"N) who maintained transport and took active measures against the gangs. The Mobile Force was equipped with small trucks and later cars which by the beginning of 1939 had about 400 fighters. In addition, the British also set up Charles Orde Wingate's Special Night Squads that launched offensive operations deep in Arab territory.

In parallel with this, the partition proposals of the Peel Commission and the atmosphere on the eve of World War II led the Haganah to prepare for an active military defense against the Arabs in preparation for when the British would evacuate the Land of Israel with a program known as the Avner Program.

The Creation of HI"SH

The first step in the creation of the HI"SH took place in 1938 when the manpower in each of the blocs was divided into three categories:

In 1939 follwoing the disbanding of the PU"SH, the creation of battalions that would serve in the field began. The goal was to establish 11 battalions of infantry, about 7,800 troops in total.[4] Seven of the battalions were as folows, three battalions in the large cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, and four battalions for four "galilot" גלילות that were defined as of 1940 (Plan A) as: Each galil was divided into napot/counties and each napa/county had at least one HI"SH company assigned to it.

Two HI"SH battalions were established in Jerusalem under the command of Shlomo Shamir, and Amnon Zeir with Akiva Atzmon, Amnon Zeir, Nehemia Brosh, Meir Batz and Meir Davidson as battalion commanders. In Haifa, two battalions were established under the command of Moshe Zadok, Zalman Yeshurun and Moshe Rihan. The HI"SH battalions were under the command of the district they were assigned to and no national HI"SH headquarters was created.

Principles and Organization

With the establishment of the HI"SH infantry units, its goals were defined as "active defense and military function."[4] These goals included:

By setting these goals at the start of the HI"SH infantry served as guides for their later service. Their main emphasis was on mobility that would enable them to act outside of towns and cities so the force sought out volunteers aged 18 to 26. However, the cities were protected by static infantry battalions composed of older members (aged 36 to 50) and volunteers from 18 to 35. In the villages where the Special Companies operated (פלוגות מיוחדות - פל״ם) (PALA"M, sometimes the acronym was also interpreted as "combat patrol") who were also under the command of the HI"SH.

At the start of the HI"SH infantry, command was entrusted to guards who had received military training, command and weapons training from the British as part of the service in the Jewish Settlement Police and similar organizations. In the summer of 1939 the first steps toward independent command too place in the Kinneret colony[5], the first course for HI"SH commanders. Some of the HI"SH volunteers, especially in rural districts, also used their legal weapons to aid the HI"SH infantry.[4]

The HI"SH Up to November 1947

World War II (1939-1945)

It was shortly after the HI"SH were established that World War II erupted. This led to a significant delay in the development of the HI"SH because many of the young people who were the natural target for joining HI"SH enlisted in the British army instead. In 1941, as the danger to Palestine from German forces increased, the British helped to establish the PALMA"CH and it was given preference over the HI"SH. In addition, regional commanders were not eager to transfer their young people to the HI"SH and preferred to keep them in the local defense units. This was especially felt necessary in view of World War II and the need to defend and fortify the settlements which made the Haganah the priority as the protective force of the Yishuv. In this situation, the HI"SH battalions remained under various regional commands and not subordinated to one national command.

Enlistment in the HI"SH was particularly low in the cities. In Jerusalem only about 300 volunteered, some 550 in Tel Aviv and no more than 300 in Haifa. In the rural areas, HI"SH was composed primarily of members of the Jewish Settlements Police which during the years of World War II numbered less than 3,000.[6] They were joined by the Notarot (NB: Notrim - another Jewish Police service sponsored by the British) in part-time service. In Jerusalem and Haifa some HI"SH units were formed from students at the universities (Hebrew University and the Technion). These units had great potential but the students changed every year and were not available during vacations. At the height of the tension created by the Nazi threat, in the summer of 1942 a mechanism was proposed to recruit for the HI"SH at the Mikvah Israel but it did not come to fruition. (NB: an agricultural school established in 1870 east of Jaffa)

As part of Plan B of the National Command, in July 1943, the HI"SH were given the task of offensive and defensive activity in the tactical operational area, i.e. in the district (מחוזי machotsi), while relying on a local base and operating in the area. The HI"SH would act to defend the areas of settlement, which included Jewish settlements and the nearby Arab villages. At the strategic level, the PALMA"CH would operate far from areas of settlement. Commanders were appointed to large cities which were divided into 'zone' חבל/chevil. A HI"SH company was assigned to each zone. Each locality or group of adjacent communities was defined as an 'area' with an area commander appointed ( מא״ז - מפקד אזור MI"AZ - mifaked azor). During an emergency or combat the MI"AZ was subordinated to the commander of the regional HI"SH company, an arrangement that strengthened the HI"SH and gave its commanders more responsibility and authority.

During the period 1944-1945 and the 'Season'[7], a company of HI"SH volunteers known as the "Special Company' (PO"M - plugah meyuchedet) פו״מ - פלוגה מיוחדת operated in Tel Aviv and was subordinated to the SH"I (The Defense Information Service, Military Intelligence) whose role was to frustrate ETZE"L and LEH"I operations against British targets and even to extradite IRGU"N and LEH"I members to the British authorities. The unit also operated against Arabs and Jewish collaborators carrying out many activities that have not been made public until now. The Tel Aviv municipality has placed a plaque at the company's headquarters on 8 Beit Sima Street.

The senior HI"SH commander, Yehoshua Globerman, was appointed the senior commander in the northern region.[8]

The Tel Aviv municipality set up a memorial plaque at the site the HI"SH unit occupied between 1944-1946 at 45 Sheinkin Street.

Years of Struggle Against the British (1945-1947)

With the end of World War II, the struggle against the White Papers was renewed. (NB: 1939 British White Paper on policy in Mandate that among other things restricted Jewish immigration.) This was in addition on to the goals of the HI"SH and all the Hebrew defense forces, with another goal of delegitimizing the institutions of British rule in Palestine. The Hebrew manpower that had been drafted into the British army was now free and most of them returned to Palestine with military training and experience. However, very few of the commanders of the Jewish Brigade and the other combat units had ever commanded forces larger than a company.[9]

At the end of World War II, the organization in the "Command Structure at the National Level (June 1945)" saw the Haganah divide the country again. "Six command areas that are equal in terms of the command authority given to their commanders, and who are directly subordinate to the Supreme Command. Three are urban and called districts and three rural areas called "galilot"... The galil are composed of sub-units called napot."[10] The districts were:

Within the framework of this order, the combat patrols (PALA"M - פטרול לוחם) were transferred from the CHAYA"M to the HI"SH. In every command area there were a number of battalions subordinated to the commander of the HI"SH forces in that area. Thus, the HI"SH battalion were created with a geographic connection that would form the basis for the territorial brigades that would be established at the end of 1947.

In May 1946 in accord with Plan C, the objectives of the HI"SH were redefined by Zvi Ayalon (leshtseiner), who is considered, together with Yehoshua Globerman, to be the father of the HI"SH organization and who determined its organizational structure and its combat doctrine.[11] At the top of the goals was not only the protection of the settlements and transportation, but an additional obejective was added, the protection of strategic and economic infrastructure such as water, power plants, industrial plants and the like. Special HI"SH forces were assigned to these installation, particularly isolated installations such as the potash plant near the Dead Sea. (NB: Potash is important to agriculture as a fertilizer which might explain its importance to Israel.)

In response to growing political tension with the Arabs, the need to organize resistence to the British and for eventual liberation from the British Army, the call for new recruits was renewed. In the cities a major effort was made to recruit new members from veterans, working youth and students. In November 1947, the HI"SH unit in Jerusalem and its environs numbered slightly less than 1,100 people, about 1,200 in Tel Aviv and about 800 in Haifa.[6] In the rural areas, the HI"SH continued to be organized in companies that relied on the manpower and equipment of the Hebrew Settlement Police.

The command began to combine the forces of the HI"SH and the PALMA"CH for offensive operations again British installations, for example, on the night of 22 Febbruary 1946, the Haganah carried out sabotage operations on the British police bases in Shfaram, Kfar Vitkin and the British Headquarters in Sharona ("HaKirya" in Tel Aviv)[12] or on the Night of Wingate on 25 March 1946.

Manpower and Training

The basic manpower of the HI"SH units came from the GADN"A, "Youth Battalions" for boys aged 15 to 18, where students were trained in military activites and first aid, for example as paramedics. In addition, the youth movement worked to recruit working youth (members of the HaNoar HaOved) and HaPoel Hamizrachi youth ("Elitzur Guards"). Another recruiting and training organization was the Maccabi sports clubs,[13] as well as "HaPoel".[14] Sports clubs were used as a front for military training.

In Jerusalem and Haifa, HI"SH units were created in Jerusalem from students and HI"SH departments were established in the universities based on fields of study. The first, whose code name was "Yohanan", was for students of the natural sciences and the other, "Ben-Avraham", for students of the humanities.[15]

In Tel Aviv, the Paratroopers Brigade stood out (the members of the battalion were also known as the "Austrians"), which consisted of working youth. This battalion was well trained and socially cohesive. Also prominent were the British Army detachment known as the Nachshonim. These groups would later form the basis for the Givati Brigade.

Additional HI"SH volunteers, especially after the end of world War II, came from overseas recruitment (GAHA"L). (גח״ל - גיוס חוץ לארץ giyus cho'tz la'aretz/recruit from outside Israel) The members of the GAHA"L were young Holocaust refugees who had been trained by Haganah in Displaced Persons camps. Some has been partisans, but most had no military experience. Their integration with native Israels was sometimes problematic because of differences in language and background.

For combat support functions (such as medicine and food supply) women and even religious women were trained.[17]

The volunteers underwent regular training, as evidenced in the memoirs of some "Givati" veterans:

Our training in 1946/47 took place on three levels, including:
-- memoirs of Yitzhak Divon, Moshe Eshed and Eliyahu Tzuk.[18]

The commanders were usually from the Notrim and later released from the British Army. Training for the commanders was held in the evenings and on Saturdays and included field training, topography and the use of weapons. The course ran for 65 days, the same as the PALMA"CH, and sometimes in the same organization so that the level of instruction was high. The course was held either at the galil or the district level. In addition, national training courses were held for special postitions (signals, patrol, sabotage, first aid, mortars and more) also in cooperation with the PALMA"CH. The longer training took place during vacations.[19]

The HI"SH operated a national course for officers (Course M"MIM) that was two months long in the Jezrell Valley (primarily in Juara, Dalia and Kfar Ha'Horesh, but also at other locattions). The officers were trained using pamphlets and materials stolen from the British Army. The number of officers was relatively small due to the difficulty of young workers meeting the many obligations of their position, in addition to those of their personal lives. However, there was no compromise in the quality of the training. From 1941 to 1946, 335 of the 746 students who started the course graduated as officers. In the years that followed, the pace of training was increased and sergeants who were British Army veterans were recruited to serve as officers. On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, the IDF had about 1,000 officers.[5] The course's slogan and the common perception of an officer was: "Commander of the Department of Defense - General".

On the eve of the establishment of the IDF, the military historian Israel Bar described the training of commanders in the Haganah and the PALMA"CH with the following words:

"The level of training among the soliders and the lower ranks of tactical command, was quite high since most of the were veterans of the Haganah, graduates of the PALMA"CH and of HI"SH courses, and very many - people with a history of trust from the ranks of the Jewish fighting brigade (the Jewish Brigade) and from other fighting units and the Guard Corps (NB: Notrot)."
-- Israel Bar, 1950[20]

And he went on to write:

"It can be said that during the years between the events of 1936-1939 and the struggle against British rule from 1945-47, it grew - consciously or unconsciously - in courses, in studies, in bulletins, in articles and in conversations, an original military doctrine is built on the principles of maneuver, mobility, surprise and strategem rather than on superiority in numbers, in the quality of the means of battle ..."
-- Israel Bar, 1950[21]

Compared to the commanders, "the soldiers in the ranks", especially those recruited before November 1947 and the GAHA"L, did not receive good military intruction and their level of training was quite low. Added to this was the British supervision of urban areas that required training to take place in remote and isolated locations, the fact that the volunteers were trained in their free time during the evenings or during vacations, and the minimal budgets available for training, particularly training with live ammunition to the point that "the most festive moment for a novice in a rifle course was when they were given one bullet to shoot."[22]

Recruitment encountered difficulties for economic, ideological and technical reasons. In the Sharon settlements:

"We often encountered difficulties when we had to recruit people. The enlistments produced a serious financial burden on the individual or on the locality in which he lived."
-- Dan Even, commander of the Alexandroni Brigade [23]

And in Jerusalem:

"In Jerusalem there were difficulties in recruiting. British supervision was closer than in any other town or city, the urban youth were not eager and the more idealistic among them tended toward the IRGU"N, and the ultra-orthodox communities were indifferent or even hostile to the Zionist idea."
-- "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" p. 61 (NB: A book written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre about the personalities and events in the city during the War of Independence.)

At times the recruits went to battle with only a very basic training in the use of weapons and following orders. The number of commanders was small relative to the number of soldiers in the ranks and the experienced ones were unable to convey to their commanders the experience they had accumulated. The formation of units was flawed because the unit members met infrequently. Apart from exceptional cases, there was no deep sense of comradeship or of pride.[24] Emergency mobilization was also inadequate because it was done going from door to door, on street corners and through messages that were random and without any proper order or organization.[22]

In the fall of 1947, the Jewish Agency set up a recruitment organization called 'the Commander of the People', to recruit all those with combat skills in the Jewish community, the Yishuv. Golda Meir headed the organization and it was administered by Levi Eshkol and Benjamin Avniel. Recruits identified as suitable candidates to serve in the HI"SH (including women) were sent to practice and training in brigades. The draft opened and after 29 November 1947 British rule did not present difficulties. In theory, enlistment was voluntary but pressure was exerted on the potential recruits to enlist by members of the youth movements and Histadrut members.

Weapons and Equipment

Weapons are expensive. Most of the HI"SH weapons were British weapons which were legally possesed by the guards and for the defense of the settlements. Others were illegal weapons that had been "silik" סליק (hidden in secret locations) in the various localities and cities. In April 1947, David Ben-Gurion[25] reported the following:

weapon typelocal HaganahHI"SHPALMA"CH
(for comparison)
submachine guns - Sten785424130
machine guns31355
hvy machine gun3383733
"The weapons were purchased by the settlements and were their property. Therefore, there were enormous differences in both the quality and quantity of the weapons in the various communities ... (which) led to a selfish approach to security problems."
-- Dan Even, commander of the Alexandroni Brigade[26]

Aside from the light weapons, there were a small number of mortars that the fighting force could use, along with PIAT guns, medium machine guns (Schwarzlose) and armored vehicles that could carry machine guns.

The ammunition was 50 rounds for each rifle and 600-700 rounds for each machine gun. As a result, weapons training was not carried out with live ammunition, instead of a hand grenade oranges or potatoes were thrown in training.[22]

Later the weapons were distributed, including some of the weapons from the localities, to the HI"SH units. IMI manufactured two Sten-like machine guns and other weapons were purchased from abroad from the surplus of the armies that had participated in World War II but these weapons did not strat to reach Israel until May 1948.

The HI"SH relied on the pioneering enterprises of the settlements for combat supplies and support. Medical supplies and equipment were distributed through the Jewish Agency from Magen David Adom and the general health fund of the Histadrut, with help from Haim Sheba, who was the commander of the Haganah's medical service. Transportation was provided members of E'ged and members of other transportation cooperatives, and supply and engineering services were provided by Solel Boneh (NB: construction company) and the Ha'rgaz (NB: manufacturing and construction).

Because the HI"SH served while living in their homes, the supplies they received (clothing, shoes, winter equipment, canned food, etc.) were based on the household or the community of the soldiers. The soldier was accustomed to returning home even during their period of active duty, serving a few days in the camp and then not returning for a long period. This presented a logistical problem when companies and battalions were "lent out" from their home base to provide help in more remote regions.[27]

A description of the arrival in Jerusalem of reinforcements from Tel Aviv illustrates some of these issues:

"They left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem in the midst of winter, on Saturday, January 24. There were dressed (under heavy thick coats, surplus from the Polish army) in Australian uniforms ...not only were their uniforms impressive, but also the way they marched into classrooms, in platoons and companies, each unit with its own headquarters, which was rare n Jerusalem ... [the soldiers from Tel Aviv] did not prepare for a long stay away from home. The personal belongings they had brought with them were not enough. They envied the soldiers from Jerusalem who were stationed in their hometown and were helped by their families in everything related to clothing and laundry, and could even go home to rest and sleep after hours of service. To anyone who wishes to know how a "single spirit" and a brotherhood of fighters emerges, they should go to Tel Aviv and listen to the stories about the conditions during the siege that forced them to stay together."
-- Memories of the fighters of the Moriah Battalion during the War of Independence.[28]

Territorial Brigades

On the basis of the National Command Structure of November 1947, David Ben-Gurion decided to establish battalions and HI"SH companies in the cities, four regular brigades in the districts, and start mobilizing all of those capable of fighting. The commanders of the brigades were directly subordinate to Ya'akov Dori, the Chief of Staff, although in practice they were under the command of Yigal Yadin, the HI"SH Assistant Chief of Staff.

The divisions that were established were:

In the cities, the brigades were formed using veterans of the GADN"A and the HI"SH, while in the provinces using the PLA"MIM (Guards), training members of the youth movements, new immigrants from abroad and others. The training of recruits and junior officers became the task of the brigades, who set up training bodies to recruit and train a large number of recruits in a short time, at the end of the induction period, the training teams were activated as elite units (primarily in the Golani and Alexandroni brigades).

In February 1948, after the recruitment and training systems were activated and a large number of enlistees had been recruited for the various 'corps', an update was made to the command structure with the following changes:

There was a connection between the recruitment area of the soldiers and where they served. The troops protected their homes and families and knew the terrain well. At least in the first part of the war (until Plan D), the brigades operated in their native environment to protect the transportation system, engage in raids on neighboring Arab villages, expand their borders and seize strategic positions held by the British (such as police forts, water installations, warehouses, army camps and checkpoints). It was only after the cities had been secured as well as the moshavot agricultural communities and roads between the that the brigades were finally sent out to operate in more remote areas. This method was success in all sectors with the excpetion of Jerusalem. Some of the battalions were concentrated in permanent camps where they stayed during the battles (for example, the large Dora camp of the Alexandroni in Netanya or the Gidon camp of the Golani near Beit Shean) while in others the soldiers returned to their homes after an operation.

During the First Truce in the summer of 1948, the first soldiers were sworn into the Israeli Defense Force. Some of them later joined with the ETZE"L forces (NB: the IRGU"N).

Lebanoni Brigade

In the early plans, the Lebanoni Division was called the Northern Division and included the entire area of Zichron Ya'akov and the area to the north. The commander was Moshe Carmel.

In February 1948, the brigade was split into the Golani Brigade in the Jezreel, Kinneret, Gilboa and Tel Hai districts, and the Carmeli Brigade (so named both for its first commander, Moshe Carmel, and the name of Mt Carmel) in the Haifa area, and the Zevulun sub-district (Haifa and the Western Galilee). At the same time, the PALMA"CH's Yiftach Brigade operated in the same sector. Later it split up with the Golani Oded Brigade.

With the establishment of the IDF, Golani became Brigade 1, Carmeli became Brigade 2 and Oded became Brigade 9.

Golani Brigade

The Golani Brigade initially focused on securing transportation to the northern communities, in Plan D (April-May 1948) the Barak BN and 13 BN occupied Tiberias and Beit Shean. After the invasion of the Arab armies (May 1948), the brigade cooperated with the Carmeli Brigade in the Jezreel Valley, Megiddo and Jenin. In the 10-day battles (July 1948), the Barak BN fought with the Salvation Army in the area of Sejera (Ilaniya) and conquered the village of Lubia (today's Golani Interchange). During the Second Truce, the brigade became an IDF brigade and participated in Operation Hiram, Operation Dekel, Operation Horev and Operation Uvda. The first commander of the brigade was Moshe Man. With the establishment of the State, the brigade numbered 3,573 soldiers and officers.[2]

The Golani Brigade was formed around the "Dror" battalion from the Lebanoni Brigade with the "Barak" and "Gideon" battalions added. The battalions of the brigade during the War of Independence were:

Carmeli Brigade

An armored vehicle that participated
in the Yechiam Convoy.

The primary task of the Carmeli Brigade was to be on standby to seize the British logistic bases in the Haifa area upon their departure, particularly the port and the access roads to it, and the refineries. The brigade also conducted an operation against the village of Balad a-Sheikh (today Nesher) after the massacre at the oil refinery on 30 December 1947. In March 1948, a brigade convoy, known as the Yechiam Convoy, left to bypass Acre and bring supplies to the northern communities but the convoy was attacked near Nahariya and suffered heavy losses. In April 1948, the brigade fought with the Rescue Army in the battles of Mishmar Ha-emek and Ramat Yohanan. And again in April 1948, the brigade successfully completed the battle for Haifa, thanks to meticulous planning and their familiarity with the terrain and facilities, the brigade managed to seize all of the British bases and facilities in the city in less than 24 hours. The brigade forced the surrender of the Arab resistance to take control of the city. After the invasion of the Arab armies, the brigade subdued the city of Acre in Operation Ben Ami (named after Ben Ami Pachter who was a battalion commander in the Carmeli Brigade and fell in the Yechiam Convoy). The first brigade commander was Moshe Carmel and the second was Mordechai Maklef who went on to become the third Chief of Staff of the IDF.

With the establishment of the State, the Carmeli Brigade numbered 2,238 soldiers and officers.[2]

All of the brigade's battalions were formed in December 1947 as the Lebanoni Brigade and were divided according to the HI"SH groups in Haifa and its surroundings. The brigade's battalions were:

Oded Brigade

At the end of May 1948, the Oded Brigade was established (under the command of Uri Yaffe, whose underground nickname was "Oded") based on the Alon Battalion (Battalion A of the Lebanoni Brigade, Battalion 11), which was transferred from the Haifa, and used forces trained by the CHAYA"M from the area's communities and a Golani force. The brigade's taks was to hold the eastern finger of the Galilee and prepare for the Golan Heights. The brigade's most famous battles were the Third battle of Malkia and Hiram. Later on, the brigade was expanded with members of the National Training Staff of the LAHA"D (the Training Bureau) to form Battalion 92, after the officer's and professional courses were discontinued because of the War of Independence.

Alexandroni Brigade

Monument for the 54 Alexandroni casualties
who fell in Operation Ben Nun A near Latrun.

The brigade was established at the end of 1947 from the HI"SH battalion in the Sharon-Shomron area (from Zichron Ya'akov to Ramat Gan) and was named after the Alexander River bordering the lands. The brigade's first action was to protect transportation on the Sharon highway (Petah Tikva-Beit Lid-Hadera) which was the only route connections Tel Aviv and Haifa. Beginning in early May 1948, the brigade helped evacuate the Migdal Tzedek quarries and helped seize the pumps in Rosh Ha'aying, which were necessary for the supply of water to Tel Aviv and the Negev areas and until then had been held by British guard forces. Later, the brigade fought in the eastern sector against the Kaukji Defense Force, where the brigade occupied Jaljulya and Arab Kfar Saba (in Operation Medina) and in a difficult battle, secured the way to Ramat Hakovesh.

In Operation Nachshon, the brigade's battalions operated as part of the combined force in the operation (for which three mixed battalions were created from HI"SH and PALMA"CH companies that were dismantled immediately after the operation ended). The forces of the brigade were also in the battles of Ein Hashofet and Mishmar Ha'emek. After the IDF was created, a battalion from the brigade (Battalion 32) was attached to Brigade 7 to assist in Operation Ben-Nun A to conquer Latrun but the attack failed. The brigade was then joined by GAHA"L and ETZE"L units under its command in the areas of Rosh Ha'ayin and Kakun. During the First Truce, the brigade's soldiers were sworn into the IDF.

The first commander of the brigade was Dan Even and with the creation of the State, it numbered 3,588 soldiers and officers.[2] With the establishment of the IDF, the brigade absorbed an ETZE"L battalion (Battalion 37) and became the 3rd Brigade.

In December 1947, the brigade had three battalions:

In May 1948, the staff of the Alexandroni's training camp stopped training recruits and Battalion 34, a brigade support battalion (which included a reconnaissance company, a jeep company and an armored vehicle company).

Kiryati Brigade

The brigade was created in February 1948 in Tel Aviv, after the Givati Brigade was moved south from the city. The brigade consisted of three infantry battalions, secular, religious GADN"A graduates and a CHAYA"M battalion. The geographic boundary of the brigade was the urban area of Tel Aviv from the Yarkon River in the north to Bat Yam in the south and to Yazur in the east. Within these boundaries was the winding urban border between Tel Aviv and Jaffa and the villages of Salamen (Kfar Shalem) and Abu Kabir. The brigade secured the roads from Holon and Mikve Israel to the city and the beginning of the road to Jerusalem through the hostile villages of Yazur and Beit Dajan (Beit Dagan). In the northern part of the sector, the brigade's forces maintained Shde Dov.

Together with the Alexandroni, Givati, PALMA"CH and ETZE"L forces, the brigade took part in Operation Chametz to conquer Jaffa. The soldier's intimate knowledge of the area, as residents, greatly aided the success of the operation. On 13 May 1948, Michael Ben Gal, the brigade commander, received the surrender letter of the Arabs of Jaffa. Despite having worked with the IRGU"N unit in Tel Aviv and fighting together in Nablus during Operation Chametz, the next mission of the brigade was to secure the Tel Aviv beach during the confrontation with the IRGU"N over the ship, the Altalena. During the First Truce, the soldiers of the brigade became part of the IDF and later they took part in Operation Dani to conquer the Arab village of Slavit (where Sha'alvim was later founded).

On the eve of the founding of the State, the brigade numbered 2,504 soldiers and officers,[2] and with the creation of the IDF, the Kiryati Brigade became Brigade 4.

The Kiryati Brigade was composed of HI"SH battalions from Tel Aviv:

Givati Brigade

The Givati was an elite HI"SH unit from the suburbs of Tel Aviv that drew on working youth and the Nachshonim (liberated from the British Army).

NB: The Nahshonim - the bold ones ... jump into the water before it is divided. "Following in the footsteps of Nachshon, who jumped into the Red Sea before God split it in two, Jewsish freedom fighters always gain 'a victory in defeat'."
from Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,(1982) 1: 574
quoted in Insurgent Terrorism by Gerald Cromer no page number. He is discussing LEH"I propaganda. Extract found in google books - are they Jewish refugees that successfully avoided the British while sailing to Mandatory Palestine??
It was named after the underground alias of its first commander, Shimon Koch Avidan. In February 1948, the brigade was taken from Tel Aviv and replaced by the Kiryati Brigade. It was transferred south with 200 of its soldiers being transferred to the Negev Brigade, which was primarily composed of PALMA"CH members, and another 200 soldiers were transferred to Jerusalem in order to strengthen the Etzioni Brigade. While it was based in Tel Aviv, the brigade participated in retaliation agains the village of Salameh after it had attacked the Hatikva neighborhood. The brigade also participated in Operation Chametz to conquer Jaffa and the villages and Arab neighborhoods found to the south of Tel Aviv. The brigade's next mission was Jerusalem.

Shimon Avidan, the brigade commander, was appointed the commander of Operation Nachshon. In preparation for the operation, 52nd BN seized the headquarters of Hassan Salameh, one of the leaders of the Arab gangs in the Ramla area. The force destroyed the headquarters, which was located near Be'er Ya'akov, causing the enemy severe losses that at least temporarily halted the roadblocks in the Lod and Ramle area. Later, as part of Plan D, the Givati forces participated in Operation Barak to take the Arab villages in the Gedera- Tel Nof-Zerifin-Beer Tuvia area, thus opening a land link between southern Judea and the edge of the Negev. At the beginning of May, the brigade was in Operation Maccabi to break through to Jerusalem together with PALMA"CH and Harel units. After the invasion of the Arab armies, the brigade fought the Egyptians in the battle of Nitzanim, the battle of Negba and others. The brigade continued to fight in the Negev along with the PALMA"CH brigades in a Operation GYS that finally defeated the Egyptians but at a heavy price, connecting the Negev to the young state of Israel. In November 1948, ETZE"L forces joined the brigade and under the command of Eitan Livni, it was transferred to Ramat Hakovesh to confront Iraqi forces.

On the eve of the establishment of the State, the brigade numbered 3,229 soldiers and officers.[2] Following the creation of the IDF, Givati became Brigade 5.

The Givati Brigade was gradually assembled from HI"SH battalions from Tel Aviv and nearby settlements and the colonies farther south:

Etzioni Brigade

Moriah Battalion roll-call at the Russian Compound.

The Etzioni Brigade operated in the city of Jerusalem. The first commander was Yisrael Amir but he was quickly replaced (by the end of January 1948) by David Shaltiel.[29]

The brigade's HI"SH battalions defended the settlements near Jerusalem: Neve Ya'akov and Atarot to the north, the Potash plants (Kalaya and Sdom) and Beit Arava near the Dead Sea, and the Har Tuv settlement to the west. All of the settlers in Gush Etzion were members of HI"SH and more HI"SH departments reinforced the settlement.[30] Because of a shortage of fighters, even young men and women 17 years of age were recruited into the HI"SH. In addition, attached to the brigade at the request of Yehoshua Arieli, was the Jonathan Company, which was a company of GADN"A consisting of boys aged 16-17 and their officers. The company assisted in the fighting in the areas of Mount Zion and the Jewish Quarter and the neighborhoods of Arnona and Talpiot. In addition, the GADN"A fighters aided the IRGU"N in the conquest of Malha and Ein Karem.[31]

Because of problems with HI"SH recruitment in Jerusalem, the brigade was reinforced by forces from Tel Aviv. The "Student Company", which was created from students at Hebrew University, was only 50 percent from Jerusalem. In this way, Etzioni lost the advantage that most other HI"SH units had, the soldier's connection to the area as well as direct familiarity with the area they served in.

At the start of the war, HI"SH troops pushed back attacks on the neighborhoods in the south of the city, Arnona, Talpiot, Mekor, Chaim, the "Study Farm" (NB: a nickname for an agricultural-edicational farm in Jerusalem.) and Ramat Rachel as well as escorted supply convoys from the coastal plain to the city, supply convoys to Gush Etzion and convoys to Mount Scopus, which remained an enclave cut off from the city. Serious losses resulted from a series of attacks on convoys, such as Platoon 35, the Atarot Convoy, the Nabi Daniel convoy and the Hadassah convoy. Etzioni forces (from the Moriah Battalion) participated in the battle of the Castel in Operation Nachshon, as well as in Operations Harel, Maccabi, Kalashon and Yevussi.

The relatively weakest brigade had to deal with the strongest regular Arab army - the Jordanian Arab Legion under British command. And so the brigade suffered numerous defeats: Gush Etzioni fell on 14 May 1948 and many of the HI"SH fighters were killed in Kfar Etzion. Beit Ha'Arava, Har Tuv, Atarot and Neve Ya'akov fell the following day. On the night of 18-19 May, the PALMA"CH successfully broke into the Jewish Quarter and a platoon of HI"SH with 80-year olds reinforced the defenders, but even with this, those in the Quarter could not hold out against the attacks of the Legion and on 28 May those in the Quarter surrendered and the defenders cuptured. In July 1948, Operation Kedem failed, the last attempt udring the War of Independence to capture the Old City. Many at the time, including the military governor of Jerusalem, Dov Yosef[32], accused David Shaltiel, the commander of the Etzioni Brigade, and held him personally responsible for the failures. In July 1948 when the brigade became part of the IDF, Moshe Dayan replaced Shaltiel who was removed from the position. However, in mid-October 1948, Operation Yekev also failed which was intended to capture the Beit Jala ridge and threaten the road to Hebron.

On the eve of the establishment of the State, the brigade numbered 3,166 soldiers and officers.[2] With the creation of the IDF, Etzioni became Brigade 6.

The Etzioni Brigade was gradually built from "Moriah" with mobilizations and reinforcements adding to it:

Role of the HI"SH in the War of Independence

The common image is that the HI"SH carried out the 'gray work' during the war. A common saying from the time was: the PALMA"CH conquers and the HI"SH stays back to occupy. And in many combined operations the PALMA"CH was often the one that conquered with them being the first to attack and the HI"SH did not arrive until the enemy was defeated then entrusted with the 'gray' task of holding the area. The final words of the description of the battle of the San Simon Monastery are typical. After a dramatic and detailed description of the battle comes the final sentences:

"We (the PALMA"CH) returned to base to refit. In our hearts there was a feeling a triumph mingled with a sense of grief over the loss of friends. The reinforcements that arrived in Katamon, including PALMA"CH, HI"SH and CHAYA"M units, completed the occupation. The enemy's resistance weakened and then he ran away."
-- Eliyahu Sela ("Ra'anana"), 1948. [33]

A HI"SH member who came to relieve the IRGU"N forces in Ramat Rachel described his feelings as he came to take take their place:

"We reached Ramat Rachel ... they (the IRGUN) had been isolated and cut off for an entire day while facing mass assaults by the Legion and a regular Egyptian force ... Lev spoke from the heart and shook hands with the besieged IRGU"N members who spoke of their love for us. The many wounded who rolled on the floor were engouraged: Who are you? Reinforcements? Did you really come? Long live the HI"SH! ... The eyes of many of us were dampened by tears at the sight of the many wounded who continued to fight even on the verge of despair! 'It's alright guys, you are going back! Cheer up!' The IRGU"N is not like us - 'Hold on like we did, do not withdraw.' Do not fear, we smiled and told them that the HI"SH will not retreat."
-- Yosef Uziel in the newspaper "Beteram", 15 July 1948 [34]

On the other hand, the HI"SH had operations and successes that they achieved almost entirely on their own. The great HI"SH succeses were in the areas of the cities of Tel Aviv (especially in Operation Chametz) and Haifa (the Battle of Haifa) thanks to the soldiers' intimate knowledge of the the area and their knowing that they were protecting their homes and their families. The Givati Brigade which also enjoyed great success in the War of Independence was composed of a HI"SH battalion that came from the suburbs of Tel Aviv and the British Army. However, this success was the exception that proves the rule, Givati soldiers were more experienced and better trained that the other HI"SH units.

However, the name of HI"SH was also associated with bitter failures such as the defeat of the Alexandroni Brigade, the Givati in the conquest of Latrun in Operations Ben-Nun A and B, and especially in the failures in Jerusalem. This was the case despite the heroic role the HI"SH played in Gush Etzion, Platoon 35, and the Yehiam Convoy which were forgotten or attributed to the PALMA"CH.

At the beginning of the war, the soldiers of the HI"SH battalions suffered from the contempt of the PALMA"CH and their lack of reputation (aura??). During the course of the conflict they accumulated experience and suffered heavy losses to create a brotherhood of warrios amid the evil. In the storm of war, combined forces were assembled to learn to cooperate which was one of the keys to victory. Military historian Israel Bar notes the high level of cooperation between the HI"SH units and the PALMA"CH and other forces that were recruited into the IDF, and attirbutes it to the highest level of military training of the commanders.

"At times, a force composed of sub-units from the HI"SH and various PALMA"CH battalions were assigned a task by the High Command. And at the end of the assignment, the force would be dismantled with all of the sub-units returned to their original units, such as the force that was gathered for Operation Nachshon or that of Operation Yevusi as well as the force that fought near Mishmar Ha'emek or the one that operated in Operation Chametz and others ... only a level (very high in both tactical command and organization) would have been able to ensure that these combinations of sub-units would reach, in a very short time, an ability to act as a united tactical force - and succeed."
-- Israel Bar, 1950 [35]

In conclusion, it can be said that the HI"SH, twice the size of the PALMA"CH in 1948, was the gray foundation that enabled the PALMA"CH to focus on the Occupation and on daring operations. The HI"SH played their part, becoming stronger with combat experience and in most areas, especially those natural for a brigade, carried out the task well.

"It is true that some say 'she was a gray brigade'
but generations of warriors will learn, go to Laura,
because after the dust settles and the sparks of the fireworks pass
the simple facts remain, and their color is gray."
-- from the Alexandroni anthem [36]


One of the major challenges faced by HI"SH members was the aura of mystique the PALMA"CH accumulated before, during and after the War of Independence. The differences between the HI"SH and the PALMA"CH were numerous and had several aspects. First, there was a political and ideological difference between the HI"SH volunteers and the PALMA"CH. The HI"SH came from the mainstream of Zionism, members of Mapai, the General Zionists, Hapoel Hamizrachi and non-partisan parties. The PALMA"CH, on the other hand, were politically active had a fairly monolithic ideology as members of the socialist Zionist left and identified with MAPA"M and Ahdut Ha'avoda. The PALMA"CH developed an ethos of heroism, comradeship and a brotherhood of warriors, nurturing myths about exalted warriors and heroic acts (the primary and most typical example of this is "The Bag of Lies" (Yalkut Ha'Zivim) by Dan Ben-Amotz and Haim Hefer). Their ethos, myths and political consciousness were nurtured by their leadership, mainly through Bnei Marshak (the PALMA"CH's "politruk") (NB: Marshak's nickname. A political commissar attached to military units.) The HI"SH, with the single exception in the form of Abba Kovner, the cultural officer for the Givati, had no politruk, no grand mythology, and no tales told around the campfire. The HI"SH did not stay with each other for long periods of time. They were people who still had to work for a living and some were married and had families. For the most part (before the War of Independence). they served near their homes and returned to their families after an operation. The members of the HI"SH were concerned with the problems of making a living and for many of them service was an important but not a vital duty in their lives. PALMA"CH members lived a collective life, supported by living and working in a kibbutz where they trained and did not have to worry about having the the difficulties of earning a living. They lived together for long periods under difficult conditions, creating a great deal of social cohesion among them. Most had no families and their friends were all PALMA"CH members as well.

The PALMA"CH nutured a sense of historical consciousness.[37] PALMA"CH soldiers took the time to document their actions and published dozens of books in the years that followed. Poets from among the PALMA"CH soldiers wrote songs that became the inalienable assets of Hebrew culture in the nascent state of Israel, and poets who were not PALMA"CH members (Natan Alterman in particular) wrote verses of admiration for them. The members of the HI"SH produced a much smaller number of documents and books, did not write songs and poems and what they wrote about, both at the time and in retrospect, paled in comparison.

The PALMA"CH commanders were all rather young (the senior commander, Yigal Alon, was only 30 in 1948) and they put a high value on the ability to improvise and personal initiative. In contrast, the commanders of the HI"SH were, according to the policy of the High Command, older and experienced (David Shaltiel was 45, and Moshe Carmel was 37), and veterans of the British Army for the most part. They learned the British way of discipline and planning, and tended not to place a high value on the abilities of individuals. However, the difficult situation required the PALMA"CH ability to 'manage' while careful planning evaporated in the face of a shortage of weapons, ammunition and manpower.

In summary, the PALMA"CH was the breakthrough force, daring and brilliant, both worthy of admiration and arrogant. The HI"SH were gray and quiet. The PALMA"CH was viewed a a high-quality, elite force that comes to "save the day" but does not remain in the area for the occupation and does not engage in the gray burden of occupying territory. Meir Avizohar in his book "Moriah in Jerusalem in 1948 - the First HI"SH Battalion in the Battles for Jerusalem" offers the following testimony regarding the battle for the Castel:

"Salman [Jacob Salman, the commander of Company A of the HI"SH Jerusalem Battalion 'Moriah', Mordechai Gazit's deputy in the battle for the Castel] placed a roadblock on the Tzuba-Castel-Arza route, entered the village that had just been taken [the Castel] and asked for "Ra'anana" [Command of the PALMA"CH Harel Brigade] to stay with him for an hour or two, until the force occupied Castel and organized it defense. "I do not have the time," he replied. Meanwhile, the sun began to shine and the PALMA"CH unit packed up with incredible speed, Salman said. "Ra'anana" left one of his units behind and told Salman that he did it "in case there are problems." "I remember very well that this statement, whih implied that he did not trust us, made me very angry, Salman concluded."
-- Veterans website, the HI"SH Moriah Battalion

The exception that proves the rule was the Givati Brigade which had a PALMA"CH commander (Shimon Avidan), a partisan politician and poet (Abba Kovner), an elite reconnaissance unit (the Shimshon Foxes) and a rich battle heritage, and, therefore, enjoyed a special reputation.

The Ha'Hishtaron

A performance by Ha'Hishtaron.

At the start of 1948, a military band was formed byt the HI"SH, one that was similar to those found in the British Army (soldiers from the brigade who had training in music and drama staged entertainment and cultural programs for their fellow soldiers during their free time). The one who came up with this idea was Tully Raviv, who first asked Shimon Avidan, the brigade commander. After receiving his approval, Raviv gathered together Bobby Pinhasi, Yaffa Yarkoni and Sarah Dagan (Kornfeld), and the four of them improvised a short program. Later, Ahuva Zadok, Zerubavela Shonkin (the eldest daughter of the poet Alexander Penn), Adi Greenberg, Miriam Salomon, Josepha Rosenstein, Shalom Gamliel and Moshe Goldstein joined the group. The ban's founder and spiritual leader was Raviv with Pinchasi serving as the music director and composer with the technical assistance and funding of the brigade command. The most well known of them was the singer Yaffa Yarkoni. The Histaron band also included the Sharon Band of the Alexandroni Brigade which included Israel Yitzhak and Emmanuel Zamir.

Despite a decision by the Military Culture Department (MACHTA"R מחת״ר) to unite all of the bands into one group, the National Military Band, Avidan objected to the proposal and sent the members of Hishtaron to a month-long training course to be military snipers.

The band's most popular songs included "Do Not Say Hello To Me" (Tully Raviv), "Believe That a Day Will Come", "Brunette", "It Happened Only This Time", and "Hishtaron is Not Simple".

The band's music was called a bourgeois or 'Saloni' style that was very similar to foreign songs (French and Argentine melodies) that were played in the cafes ofTel Aviv, and not at all like the stormy PALMA"CH songs with Russian melodies. There was also a rivalry between the HI"SH Histatron group and the PALMA"CH Chezbatron. The band produced about three programs and was very popular with the HI"SH and very successful with the entire Yishuv until it was disbanded in 1950.

"If you read the letters of soldiers from the same brigade you could find descriptions of preparations before going into action, on 'the last night before departure' there was an addition right after it: 'A party was held, all were happy, the Hishtaron appeared and almost immediately the mood picked up' ... "
-- letter from the soldier Avi in the "Bamahana", dated 3 March 1949.[38]

Further Reading

External Sources