Commenters on the conflict often speak of the grave of Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish extremist who gunned down 29 Muslims inside the Mosque of Ibrahim in Hebron in 1994. Jeff Klein recently visited the grave. This account appeared on his site, At a slight angle to the universe, on June 22.
On a hillside in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, overlooking the large West Bank Palestinian city of al-Khalil — known to Israeli Jews and most foreigners by its biblical name of “Hebron” – is the grave monument of Dr. Baruch Goldstein.
On the Jewish holiday of Purim, February 25, 1994, Goldstein, then a reserve officer in the Israeli army, walked into the Mosque of Ibrahim (the traditional burial place of the Patriarch Abraham) in uniform and with his army-issued weapon, opening fire on the Muslim worshippers. 29 people were murdered outright and 125 wounded before the survivors managed to disarm Goldstein and kill him on the spot.
For many far-right Israeli Jews and especially the settler movement Goldstein was a martyr to the cause of religious Zionism. His grave in a ceremonial plaza overlooking the Palestinian town became a place of pilgrimage and celebration – to the great embarrassment of the Israeli government and many of its supporters in the US.
The ceremonial plaza around the grave was ordered dismantled, but the park and monumental walkway leading up to his grave remain in place. The park is dedicated to Meir Kahane, the US-born rabbi who was a founder of the violent Jewish Defense League and later the leader of the fascist Kach party — which was so openly racist that it was eventually banned in Israel. Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990, but today you can still find stickers and graffiti around Israel with the slogan “Kahane Lives” or in English “Kahane Was Right!”
The Hebrew inscription on Goldstein’s grave monument reads, in part:
“The revered Dr. Baruch Kapel Goldstein… Son of Israel. He gave his soul for the sake of the people of Israel, The Torah, and the Land. His hands are clean and his heart good… He was assassinated for the Sanctity of God”
The stones on the grave are customarily left by visitors to express their mourning.
During the annual observance of the Purim holiday, settlers gather at Goldstein’s grave to celebrate his deed and sing songs in praise of the man they regard as a noble martyr. One of the songs includes the verse: “Dr. Goldstein, there is none other like you in the world. Dr. Goldstein, we all love you… he aimed at terrorists’ heads, squeezed the trigger hard, and shot bullets, and shot, and shot.”
Then the settlers march down to pray at the Mosque/Synagogue of Abraham, accompanied by a massive show of force by Israeli army troops.
The 1994 Hebron Massacre launched a fierce outburst of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which included the first suicide bombings carried out by Hamas within the 1948 borders.
But in this case (Jewish) terrorism worked. The ancient burial place of the Patriarchs, which had been converted into a mosque over a thousand years earlier was now divided into a Muslim and a Jewish section and made accessible to Jewish worshipers and foreign tourists.
Ironically, it’s impossible for anyone to visit both parts of the shrine at a single occasion, since people approaching the heavy security at the shrine must declare their religious affiliation and are allowed into one or the other section depending on their answer. Muslims are not allowed into the Jewish section and Jews are not allowed into the Muslim section. Non-Jewish tourists can choose one or the other, but not both. (I know this from a previous visit with my son to the Mosque side).
On the day I was there, a large group of Swedish tourists, the men sporting incongruously small white Jewish kippot (“yarmilkas”) given to them at the entrance. Jewish religious law does not require non-Jews to have their heads covered.
Meanwhile religious Jewish yeshiva students were chanting fervently and loudly just behind them.