The legacy of the Gideon Battalion

Gideon son of Jehoash
The ‘Gideon’ battalion is named after Gideon ben Jehoash, the fifth judge in the Book of Judges and who is considered one of the greatest generals in the history of the people of Israel.
Gideon lived in a time when the Israelites suffered a lot from different peoples, chief among them the Amalekites and the Midianites. An angel of God who appears to him blesses him with the blessing ‘The Lord is with you, the hero of the army’, but Gideon, in his modesty, is not enthusiastic about accepting the role of leader and only after persuasion from the angel agrees to the position.

Initially, Gideon’s army numbered ten thousand Israelites, but a special test that the warriors pass significantly reduces the number of warriors and leaves only the best and most professional in the army: Gideon sends the warriors to drink water from the Harod spring and chooses only those warriors who drank water while licking it from the palms of their hands and not on with their hands kneeling in the spring water, while their attention is not given to the fighting situation. This test of professionalism, so characteristic of the Golani fighters and the Gideon regiment, ultimately leaves 300 elite fighters in Gideon’s army, to whom Gideon says before the battle the sentence engraved on one of the walls of the IDF officers’ school – “From me you shall see and so shall you do”. A sentence that is one of the leadership symbols of the IDF and of the Golani commanders in particular.

Gideon was a commander who was also an intelligence officer. Gathering intelligence himself from the Midianites by listening in on a conversation between two Midianites, he launches a night attack and drives the Midianite army across the Jordan. After his resounding victory, the Israelites ask him to rule over them, but he refuses.

The story of Gideon, his courage and leadership, served as an inspiration for commanders and soldiers even before the establishment of the state and with the establishment of the IDF. The special night companies founded by Charles Wingate were called ‘the Gideons’ and so was Golani’s Gideon Battalion, whose soldiers and commanders embodied in them over the years the characteristics of Gideon’s behavior and way of command.