Jonathan Muskat

The Fight Over Hebron: Are We Scared When We See Giants?

There has been a new Palestinian attempt at UNESCO to claim the city of Hebron and the Me’arat Hamachpelah as a Palestinian site.  We all know this claim to be false, but it seems that as hard as we try to defeat these unjust claims aimed at delegitimizing Israel, we constantly face enormous opposition from UNESCO and the international community at large. This can of course become very emotionally deflating for supporters of Medinat Yisrael. However, we as a nation must know that we are armed with the tools to persevere in the face of such threats, and that ultimately, our voices will be heard.

In Chapter Four of “Good to Great,” Jim Collins contrasts how two different companies reacted when Procter & Gamble invaded the paper-based consumer business in the late 1960s.  Scott Paper, the leading company up to that point, simply resigned itself to second-place and didn’t put up a fight against Procter & Gamble.  Kimberly-Clark, on the other hand, felt this new competitor was an asset and looked forward to challenging this giant company.  Darwin Smith, CEO of Kimberly-Clark, called together the leadership of his company and said, “Okay, I want everyone to rise in a moment of silence.”  After a few seconds, he said to the group, “That was a moment of silence for P&G.”  What gave Darwin Smith and Kimberly-Clark the confidence to take on the giant, as opposed to Scott Paper?

It is natural for different people to react differently when confronted with giants.  The Torah almost intentionally creates an ambiguity as to which of the spies went to Hebron.  On the one hand, the Torah states in the singular, “vayavo,” indicating only one person went to Hebron. Rashi believes that person was Kalev, as he was rewarded by receiving this city when the Bnei Yisrael conquered Eretz Yisrael, specifically because he had gone there before.  On the other hand, the other spies claimed that they say giants in Eretz Yisrael when they visited, and the giants were located in Hebron.  As such, Hizkuni writes that the term “vayavo” means the group of spies came, and the singular term refers to the singular group.  Perhaps both Kalev and the other spies came to Hebron, but the Torah’s intentional ambiguity conveys that they went in separate directions.  The other spies went on a tour and saw giants and reacted the way Scott Paper did – let’s just give up.

In contrast, Kalev went to visit other giants of his own.  He went to the Me’arat Hamachpelah, to visit the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, and Yaakov and Leah. He drew strength from these giants to face the other giants that lived in Hebron.  And perhaps Kalev’s response to this challenge was different than that of Yehoshua, as these two men personify different types of faith. When Kalev and Yehoshua speak to the people, they say, “im chafetz Hashem v’haivi otanu el ha’aretz hazot,” if God wants us then we will succeed, “akh baHashem al timrodu,” but don’t rebel against God, “vaHashem itanu al tira’um,” God is with us – don’t be afraid.  This speech reflects a basic type of faith, that we should have faith in God and He will protect us.  However, Kalev initially tells the people something else, “alo na’aleh v’yarashnu ota ki yachol nuchal lah,” let’s ascend and conquer the land because we will be able to do it.  There is no mention of God in this speech.  Essentially, Kalev tells the people: I will fight the giants who live in Hebron with the giants from whom I descend.  God has endowed me with strengths and the ability to confront these living giants because He has placed me in this situation and therefore I can do it.

When we face our Proctor & Gambles of the world, some of us may simply give up. Others may have faith in God and pray that He will perform miracles for us. But then there are those among us who will go one step further.  Some of us will look to God, and acknowledge the strength that he has given us. And our faith in Him will translate into faith in ourselves, wherein we believe that we are the miracle that is needed and able to confront our own giants.  And it is this faith that will continue to motivate us to stand up to UNESCO and the international community as long as they try to delegitimize our holy country, our holy cities and our holy sites.

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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