Baruch Kopel Goldstein (December 9, 1956 – February 25, 1994) was an American-born Israeli physician and mass murderer who perpetrated the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounding another 125.
The Israeli government condemned the massacre and responded by arresting followers of Meir Kahane, forbidding certain settlers from entering Arab towns and demanding that those settlers turn in their army-issued rifles. Goldstein was denounced by mainstream Orthodox Judaism and was widely described as insane by Israelis.
Goldstein’s gravesite became a pilgrimage site for Jewish extremists. In 1999, after the passing of Israeli legislation outlawing monuments to terrorists, the Israeli army dismantled the shrine that had been built to Goldstein at his gravesite.
Early life and education
Goldstein was born in Brooklyn, New York to an Orthodox Jewish family. He attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush religious day school and Yeshiva University. He received his medical training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He belonged to the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant Jewish organization founded by his boyhood acquaintance Meir Kahane.
Immigration to Israel
Goldstein immigrated to Israel in 1983. He served as a physician in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), first as a conscript, then in the reserve forces. Following the end of his active duty, Goldstein worked as a physician and lived in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, where he worked as an emergency doctor, and was involved in treating victims of Arab-Israeli violence. Israeli press reports stated that Goldstein refused to treat Arabs, even Arab soldiers serving in the IDF; this was also reflected in comments by his acquaintances, although there was one account of him treating a wounded Palestinian. Goldstein was active in Kahane’s Kach party and was third on the party list for the Knesset during the 1984 elections. He compared Israel’s democracy to Germany under Nazism, and was in the habit of wearing a yellow star with the word Jude on it.
On February 25, 1994, that year’s Purim day, Goldstein entered a room in the Cave of the Patriarchs that was serving as a mosque, wearing “his army uniform with the insignia of rank, creating the image of a reserve officer on active duty.” He then opened fire, killing 29 worshippers and wounding more than 125. Mosque guard Mohammad Suleiman Abu Saleh said he thought that Goldstein was trying to kill as many people as possible and described how there were “bodies and blood everywhere.” Eventually, Goldstein was overcome and beaten to death by survivors of the massacre. According to Ian Lustick, “by mowing down Arabs he believed wanted to kill Jews, Goldstein was reenacting part of the Purim story.”
Palestinian protests immediately followed the shooting; in the following week, 25 Palestinians were killed by the Israel Defense Forces, and five Israelis were killed as well. According to Aditi Bhaduri, writing in The Hindu, following the riots, Israel imposed a two-week curfew on the 120,000 Palestinian residents of Hebron. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin telephoned PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and described the attack as a “loathsome, criminal act of murder.” The Israeli government condemned the massacre, and responded by arresting followers of Meir Kahane, forbidding certain settlers from entering Arab towns, and demanding that those settlers turn in their army-issued rifles. Goldstein was immediately “denounced with shocked horror even by the mainstream Orthodox,” and many in Israel described Goldstein as insane.
Gravesite and shrine
Goldstein is buried across from the Meir Kahane Memorial Park in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement adjacent to Hebron. The park is named in memory of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Israeli far-right political party Kach, a group classified by the United States and Israeli governments as a terrorist organization. Goldstein was a long-time devotee of Kahane.
The gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for Jewish extremists; a plaque near the grave reads “To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel.” At least 10,000 people have visited the grave since the massacre. In 1996, members of the Labor Party called for the shrine-like landscaped prayer area near the grave to be removed, and Israeli security officials expressed concern that the grave would encourage extremists. In 1999, following passage of a law designed to prohibit monuments to terrorists, and an associated Supreme Court ruling, the Israeli Army bulldozed the shrine and prayer area set up near Goldstein’s grave.
Veneration of Goldstein and celebration of the massacre
At Goldstein’s funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin claimed that even one million Arabs are “not worth a Jewish fingernail.” Samuel Hacohen, a teacher at a Jerusalem college, declared Goldstein the “greatest Jew alive, not in one way but in every way” and said that he was “the only one who could do it, the only one who was 100 percent perfect.” Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba declared that Goldstein was “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust.” In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein’s grave to celebrate Goldstein’s actions. Some Hasidim danced and sang around his grave. According to one visitor to the gravesite in the wake of the attacks, “If [Goldstein] stopped these so-called peace talks, then he is truly holy because this is not real peace.” Some visitors declared Goldstein a “saint” and “hero of Israel.”
The phenomenon of the adoration of Goldstein’s tomb persisted for years. The grave’s epitaph said that Goldstein “gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land.” In 1999, after the passing of Israeli legislation outlawing monuments to terrorists, the Israeli army dismantled the shrine that had been built to Goldstein at the site of his interment. However, the tombstone and its epitaph, calling Goldstein a martyr with clean hands and a pure heart, was left untouched. In the years after the dismantling of the shrine, radical Jewish settlers continued to celebrate the anniversary of the massacre in the West Bank, sometimes even dressing up themselves or their children to look like Goldstein.
In 2010, Jewish settlers were criticized that during celebrations of Purim they sang songs praising Baruch Goldstein’s massacre demonstratively in front of their Arab neighbours. A phrase from the song reads “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.”
Jewish killer attacked mosque last year: Evidence is mounting that Baruch Goldstein was known to be dangerous well before the massacre, writes Sarah Helm
On March 1, 1994, four days after the massacre, the British Independent newspaper published the following report:
WELL before the Hebron massacre Baruch Goldstein had already flagged his deadly intentions. In October he poured acid over the floor of the Ibrahimi mosque, leaving giant holes in the rugs. On Friday the rugs were soaked in blood.
After the acid attack the Muslim authorities identified Goldstein as the culprit from the evidence of sanctuary guards. Goldstein also assaulted six worshippers inside the mosque. The authorities wrote to Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, on 18 October 1993 “regarding the dangers” of Goldstein. “These daily violations in the Ibrahimi mosque cannot be given silent treatment,” said the letter.
The Israeli government did nothing and Mr Rabin’s office did not reply to the Islamic leaders’ letter. It was one of many warnings about Goldstein that were ignored by the Israeli authorities.
For some time the American-born settler had been publicly declaring his readiness to attack Arabs. Four years ago an agent of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service that infiltrated Kach, the extremist group supported by Goldstein, warned his superiors that Goldstein was a danger. The agent told Yediot Ahronot, a mass-circulation daily paper, yesterday that Goldstein described in 1990 how: “There will be a day when one Jew will take revenge on the Arabs.”
According to informed army sources, at the time of the massacre Goldstein’s name was not on the list of “wanted” Jewish extremists and his actions were not monitored.
The Israeli government is coming under mounting pressure to bear some responsibility for the Hebron slaughter. So far the leadership has dismissed the crime as the work of a lunatic that could not have been prevented. But evidence is mounting that the authorities also ignored evidence against many other extremists. Questions are being asked about religious settlers who serve in the Shin Bet inside the occupied territories and who may have some sympathy for extremists. Military rules, under which settlers do their reserve duty near where they live, are also being questioned.
Despite his known anti-Arab fanaticism, Goldstein served as a reserve captain in Hebron. As a result he had full access to security information about the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which made his mission simple to carry out.
Goldstein was even listed as the army doctor in case of emergency at the sanctuary and was frequently called on when clashes occurred. He therefore knew the duties and positions of army guards at the mosque and how to avoid them. His presence would not have been a surprise to the army guards.
More important, perhaps, he knew how to avoid the army video cameras in the mosque. Every moment of the massacre is recorded on film. However, according to military sources, Goldstein’s entrance into the mosque is not shown. Early findings of an army inquiry said unconvincingly yesterday that the cameras were in the wrong place. More likely, Goldstein knew how to keep out of their range
Military sources are now confirming that the army guards on duty at the time were slovenly and ill-prepared for any emergency. Under special rules, drawn up after the intifada, a platoon of regular soldiers is assigned to the site, with a change-over each two months.
It is understood that as many as 60 soldiers should be on duty in the area at any one time, with up to 10 in the sanctuary itself. Special rules operate during the Muslim period of Ramadan, which is when the killings took place. In the hours before the massacre some soldiers assigned to be inside the mosque had not turned up for duty but had stayed at home to celebrate Purim, a Jewish festival, according to army sources, while others on duty were sleeping. The army confirmed four soldiers had not turned up.
Although the standing orders state that nobody should be allowed into the mosque carrying ammunition, nobody stopped Goldstein, who entered with at least three magazines. This may also partly explain why Goldstein was able to keep shooting for several minutes before he was attacked and then killed by the Palestinians.
The evidence of incompetent security lends credence to the many statements from witnesses that soldiers panicked and fired into the crowd, adding to the death toll. But the Israeli army said yesterday that all 111 bullets found in the mosque were from Goldstein’s gun.
Soldiers on guard in the mosque have been held incommunicado in their Hebron barracks since the attack. The Israeli authorities have also hosed down the blood-drenched sanctuary, thereby removing evidence.