Baruch Goldstein

The perpetrator of the Hebron massacre is both vilified and celebrated.

Print this page Print this page

On Purim morning, February 25 1994, Baruch Goldstein walked into the Muslim prayer hall at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Goldstein, wearing his IDF reservists uniform, was carrying a Glilon assault rifle and 140 rounds of ammunition. He opened fire into the crowd, killing 29 people and injuring 125, until he was overwhelmed and beaten to death by survivors.

Goldstein's Background

Goldstein was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1956 to an Orthodox family. He studied at Yeshiva of Flatbush, Yeshiva University, and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he trained as a physician. He was a member of the Jewish Defense League, an extremist Jewish organization which advocated the use of violence to combat antisemitism, and a disciple of its leader, Meir Kahane. After immigrating to Israel, Goldstein served as a doctor in the Israeli army. He settled in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish settlement bordering Hebron, and continued to work as an emergency physician.

In Israel, Goldstein was an active member of Meir Kahane's Kach party (Kahane immigrated to Israel in 1971), a movement which was banned from running in Israeli elections due to its racist, anti-democratic platform. Following the massacre, the press reported that Goldstein's anti-Arab views had led him to refuse to treat non-Jewish patients while on duty in Lebanon in the early 1980s--in direct breach of orders--and later as a civilian doctor in Hebron. Despite this, Goldstein received two citations from the Israeli army in 1993 in recognition of his medical work, and in January 1994 he was recommended for promotion from the rank of captain to major.

The Massacre: Fact and Fiction

baruch goldsteinThe events of February 25 are no less controversial than Goldstein's character. Various versions of the morning's events circulated in the Israeli press based on eye witness accounts: Goldstein was called up for reserve duty on the morning of the massacre and driven to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in his commander's army jeep; he was helped to enter the Tomb through a locked side-entrance; the shooting was preceded by the detonation of at least two grenades; interviews with the survivors as well as an IDF ballistics report indicated the presence of a second shooter; survivors reported that upon escaping the Tomb, they were fired at from a nearby army lookout.

The Shamgar Commission of Inquiry, appointed by the Israeli government in the wake of the massacre and headed by the President of the Supreme Court, concluded that Goldstein acted alone in planning the massacre, telling no one of his scheme. The soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs knew Goldstein; noting his military uniform and assuming him to be on reserve duty, they allowed him to enter the Muslim prayer area, even though he was armed.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.