Baruch Goldstein

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

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Goldstein's Jerusalem funeral, in contrast, was attended by more than 1000 people. Goldstein was eulogized by well known rabbis and settlement movement leaders. After his coffin was brought--under tight security--to Kiryat Arba, a second series of eulogies was delivered, among others, by Rabbi Dov Lior who, some years previously had infamously called for Arab prisoners to be used in medical experiments.

Lior said of Goldstein: "[He] was full of love for fellow human beings. He dedicated himself to helping others." Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported that as they waited for the arrival of the coffin, people in the crowd were heard to comment: "What a hero!" "A righteous person!" "He did it on behalf of all of us."

Murderer, Not Martyr

Having been denied permission by the authorities to be buried in the Hebron Jewish cemetery, Goldstein was buried in the Meir Kahane Memorial Park in Kiryat Arba. A plaque near the grave reads: "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah, and the land of Israel." The grave became a site of pilgrimage for the extreme right: on the sixth anniversary of the massacre, for example, supporters gathered at the memorial dressed in lab coats, false beards, and carrying guns.

In 2000, after more than 10,000 people had visited the site, the Supreme Court ordered the shrine-like landscaped prayer area surrounding the grave to be removed. The court's decision was implemented by hundreds of policemen, after an hours-long battle with right wing extremists at the graveside.

Yet while some extremists have lauded Goldstein and attempted to justify his actions in terms of Jewish law, the worldwide rabbinic establishment came down firmly against him. Rabbi Yehuda Amital, leader of the moderate religious Meimad movement, wrote that Goldstein had "stained the Jewish people and the Torah with innocent blood. Beyond the moral and religious baseness of killing innocents while they knelt in prayer before the creator of the world, this terrible murder has brought about the desecration of God's name in the eyes of the entire world."

Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, added: "Such an act is an obscenity and a travesty of Jewish values. That it should have been perpetrated against worshippers in a house of prayer at a holy time makes it a blasphemy as well… Violence is evil. Violence committed in the name of God is doubly evil. Violence against those engaged in worshipping God is unspeakably evil."

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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.