They are trained by the IDF's best instructors and are expert marksmen, scouts and urban warfare fighters. In contrast to their counterparts in the elite units belonging to the Golani or Paratrooper Brigades, these soldiers sport large black velvet yarmulkes and sidelocks, making up the first glatt kosher Sayeret - elite reconnaissance squad - in IDF history. The squad is part of Nahal Haredi, which was established nine years ago as a single company. Today it is a full battalion - called Netzah Yehuda - with three companies and the newly-established elite counter-terror squad which is under the direct command of Battalion Commander Lt.-Col. Itzik Gai. The battalion belongs to the Kfir Brigade and is based in the Jordan Valley. Most of its 700 soldiers are recruited in Israel and come from a haredi or national religious background. After they complete two years of service, Nahal Haredi offers the soldiers help in completing matriculation and pre-college studies. Sources in the battalion said that the new elite squad was made up of 20 soldiers who were chosen after completing their basic and advanced training. "The soldiers who are chosen undergo advanced training with an emphasis on urban warfare techniques and reconnaissance," a source in the battalion said. "The squad has bomb sappers, snipers and medics - basically everything a unit going into combat would need." The unit, which operates in the Jordan Valley, Jericho, sometimes deploys by helicopter or in military vehicles. They are trained by IDF reservists who have served in elite units. "The counter-terror squad is used to lay ambushes and for operations that need to be launched within a matter of minutes," the source said. "The soldiers in the unit are always on standby." The IDF is pleased with the performance of Netzah Yehuda and recently announced plans to try and enlist enough haredi soldiers to be able to establish a second battalion in a similar framework - two years of military service as a combat soldiers and one year completing matriculation exams and preparing for university. Rabbi Zvi Klebanow, director of the Nahal Haredi Organization, said that the elite fighters "are a pride for Israel by demonstrating their ability to maintain a haredi lifestyle while at the same time serving their country."