The Thirty-Five Davids and Two Thousand Goliaths

May 15, 2024

Israel’s Independence Day is a celebration like no other. The preparation begins weeks in advance as excitement and patriotism sweep the country. Flags sell like hotcakes as people decorate their homes and crane-induced traffic jams commence, with towns stringing decorations on all the streetlamps nationwide. The entire country is filled with the smell of barbeque on the holiday itself. Families take the day to hike together, appreciating the beautiful land of Israel with their loved ones. I’ll say this – Every single one of my friends who immigrated to Israel, hailing from all over the world, has shared that nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to celebrating Independence Day in Israel. It’s about wholesomeness, family time, a sense of community, and, most importantly, appreciation for the miracle of the State of Israel.

Who would have guessed that the day before is Israel’s Remembrance Day, one of the most somber and sad days of the year? On that day, the country remembers its tremendous cost by commemorating the heroic fallen soldiers who bravely fought for Israel as well as victims of terror. The contrast itself is a message that helps us all better appreciate the miracle of Israel.

In honor of Israel’s independence, today’s super Daily Inspiration (for the seven weeks of superhero series) will shed light on a different kind of contrast: a mighty giant and a scrawny red-headed boy. And just how much that story connects to a heroic story from the modern-day founding of the state of Israel. 

David and Goliath is probably one of the most popular and well-known Biblical stories. It involves the massive Philistine, a well-armored giant, and the shepherd boy, who refused to be armored. The story is about how David defeated Goliath with just a tiny rock, saving the Israelites from a lifetime of slavery. 

Though at the time of the battle, David was serving as King Saul’s soldier, he would go on to succeed him as the second King of Israel. The battle of David and Goliath, though, took place just a few miles west of where a more modern-day David and Goliath story occurred.

I want to tell you the story of an incredibly tragic, incredibly heroic group of men: “The Thirty-Five.” It’s about their untimely death, their tremendous sacrifice, and how much we owe them for their bravery today in Judea and Samaria. 

It’s January, early 1948, and despite the UN’s attempts to best partition the British Mandate, parts of the Etzion Bloc, a beautiful stretch of land in Judea and Samaria, was divided in a total mess.  For background, the Jews in what would become Israel had endured decades of near-constant violence from their Arab neighbors, facing shootings and – in the case of the 1929 Hebron Massacre, actual pogroms. Nevertheless, in the Etzion Bloc they did everything they could to live safely in God’s land, establishing four kibbutzim in the area. But in early 1948, all of that changed. The four kibbutzim that belonged to Jews ended up in partitioned Arab Land. These Kibbutzim were on the road to Jerusalem along a strategic road. In January 1948, Arab legionnaires – assisted by local Arabs –  launched an overwhelming attack on the four kibbutzim, with each Kibbutz under attack from an estimated 400 to 500 Arab soldiers, outnumbering the defenders by a whopping ratio of 8:1. Yet, in an incredible miracle, the fighters from the Palmach managed to ambush the Arab fighters, leading the Arabs to believe the Jewish army was far larger than it actually was. Approximately 30 fighters in each Kibbutz managed to stave off impending doom from the Arab nations. Buying the Etzion Bloc some time. 

But time wasn’t really on their side: the Arab military controlled the roads surrounding the Etzion Kibbutzim, and eventually, it fell under siege. Resources for the communities were exhausted, and the Kibbutzim desperately needed assistance. 

So it was decided that under the leadership of Danny Mass, a former commander of the Etzion communities, 38-foot soldiers (most of whom were students themselves) would go into Kfar Etzion on foot, the safest way to enter the area without being detected. If they made it to Kfar Etzion before daybreak, they could deliver the 3,500 or so pounds of supplies they collectively carried on their backs.

Three soldiers returned to their base early on in the mission and subsequently, the 35 remaining soldiers could not make it to Kfar Etzion before dawn. They were spotted, some say by two Arab village women, some say by an older shepherd. And, being the morally grounded fighters that they strived to be, The Thirty Five chose not to kill the Arab civilians despite the tremendous risk they faced of being reported on. 

As the group arrived in Kfar Etzion to distribute supplies, they were attacked by hundreds of Arab soldiers and civilians. Did you really think the lone Shepherd would keep thirty-five Jewish soldiers a secret? The bodies of The Thirty-Five were so horribly mutilated after their deaths that it was impossible to bury each of them properly.  

A few months later, the Etzion Bloc fell – the remaining community members from the Kibbutzim were murdered – including all the civilians after they had surrendered. In 1948, for a short period, the beautiful land in Judea and Samaria was bereft. 

Thankfully, in 1967, during the six-day war, the land in Judea and Samaria, including the Etzion Bloc, was returned to Jewish hands. 

The story of The Thirty-Five was a battle of the small but mighty—the ones willing to sacrifice everything for a 2,000-year-old dream in God’s land. The Thirty-Five became a battle cry that eventually united Jews across Israel, helping them to defeat the five Arab armies. 

These 35 men risked everything to save a community under siege.

Two quotes from the story of David and Goliath embody the strength and determination of The Thirty-Five and all of the early fighters for the modern-day state of Israel. 

Before the big fight, Saul questioned David’s commitment to fight Goliath – despite the size and strength difference. David replied:

SAMUEL 1: 17:32

There’s so much truth to that as we look at what the heroes from the Palmach accomplished in the early weeks of 1948. Their courage never failed them despite the odds being stacked against them. 

And finally, I imagine this scene: The men from The Thirty-Five, confronting the masses of 

Arab fighters before them with these words:

While The Thirty-Five were ultimately defeated – the Jewish determination for sovereignty, to keep their God-given land in their own hands, and to establish a modern-day Day State of Israel was actualized when Israel was finally declared an independent state. 

This story feels especially pertinent today. The image of small Kibbutzim being besieged by the worst kind of barbarism on October 7th will remain in our collective memory for a very, very long time. But despite being small in numbers, we are mighty. 

We have friends, allies, lovers of Israel and the Jewish people – and, of course, the modern-day “David’s Sling,” an Israeli-created missile defense system, which we saw in action just a few weeks ago as a modern-day Goliath rained down missiles on Israel. 

Most importantly, we have the courage of our convictions, that we must live by the word of God, and in accordance with His will.That is how we can be David in today’s story, too. 

This article is part three in a seven week series on Heroic People in the Modern Day and Biblical Times.
Catch up on last week’s hero here

Allowing a Palestinian terror state in the heart of Israel would destroy the Jewish State.
Keep God’s Land is dedicated to strengthening and defending Israel’s right to its biblical heartland, with the ultimate goal of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.
Learn More about this incredible mission, today!

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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