The station broadcasts news, music, traffic reports and educational programs to the general public as well as entertainment and military news magazines for soldiers. The network has one main station and an offshoot - Galgalatz (Hebrew: גלגל"צ) - that broadcasts music and traffic reports 24 hours a day in Hebrew. The staff includes both soldiers and civilians. As of December 2013, the station is no longer broadcast via shortwave to Europe. There is still a livestream feed on the internet.
Galatz started its transmissions on September 24, 1950, as a continuance of the Hagana transmission to the Jewish public during the Israeli War of Independence. Transmissions began with a trumpet blast at 6:30 p.m. followed by HaTikva, the Israeli national anthem. An improvised studio had been set up inside a former school building in Ramat Gan, with army blankets hung on the walls to muffle background noise.
In 1956, its status was defined by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority law (paragraph 48). The Israel Defense Forces was authorized to choose its programming for soldiers, but programs for civilians had to receive approval from the IBA. During the station's formative period in the 1960s and 1970s, it was headed by Yitzhak Livni. In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Galatz was the first Israeli radio station to broadcast around the clock. In 1982, during the Lebanon War, the station collaborated with Israeli Educational Television (IETV). This wartime cooperation led to a daily news and interview show called Erev Hadash (Hebrew: ערב חדש, lit. New Evening).
Galatz was the first radio station in Israel to abandon the formal, somewhat stilted Hebrew that was normally used in the media. Its entertainment programs to soldiers were the first to use colloquial Hebrew on air. Its news bulletins use a more relaxed linguistic style than IBA's Kol Yisrael (קול ישראל, Voice of Israel) hourly bulletins. This presentation style proved particularly popular among two age groups: youngsters and senior citizens.
For many years Galei Zahal broadcasts were mainly geared toward soldiers, including music programs conveying soldiers’ greetings and various broadcasts related to the IDF. The station was unique in that it incorporated soldiers serving in the regular army into journalistic positions, including reporters, editors, producers, news broadcasters, music broadcasters, musical editors, announcers, etc. Following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the station began broadcasting 24 hours a day, expanding its broadcasts to include news broadcasts and current affairs programming. For years, it was the only Israeli station that continued to broadcast throughout the night. In November 1993 Galei Zahal began operating Galgalatz, which broadcasts music interspersed with traffic reports and has high listener rates.
According to Oren Soffer, a head of communication studies in Open University, Galei Zahal has become symbol of pluralism and journalistic freedom.
According to Michael Handelzalts, a long-time Haaretz columnist and theater critic, Galei Zahal had a "far-reaching positive influence on Israeli culture," and "address[ed] issues of culture in the widest sense." Beginning in the 1960s, new poems were read aloud once a week. In the 1970s, the station broadcast radio plays inaugurated "University on the Air," and held the first live telephone conversations with listeners ever broadcast on a radio station in Israel. Ram Evron hosted live nightly talk shows. Recently, Galei Tzahal was the first radio station to incorporate a podcast into their scheduling when they gave "Israel Story" a permanent slot.
The station is managed by a civilian appointed by the defense minister for a 3- to 5-year term. The station commander holds the military rank of Sgan Aluf, although the job is mainly managerial and editorial. The current station commander is Shimon Elkabetz. Galei Tzahal was considered a division of the Education and Youth Corps until October 2017.
- "It was good radio", Michael Handelzalts, October 21, 2010, Haaretz
- "Galei Zahal" Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Series Articles, Israel Philatelic Federation
- Soffer Oren (2012). "The Anomaly of Galei Tzahal: Israel's Army Radio as a Cultural Vanguard and Force for Pluralism The Anomaly of Galei Tzahal: Israel's Army Radio as a Cultural Vanguard and Force for Pluralism". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. doi:10.1080/01439685.2012.669886.