Settlers Commemorate Hebron Mosque Massacre Gunman
KIRYAT ARBA, West Bank (AP) _ Scores of Jewish settlers prayed today at the grave of the Hebron mosque massacre gunman to mark the anniversary of his death. A militant Jewish leader threatened more violence against Palestinians.
Mourners praised Baruch Goldstein as a holy man and said he helped deter Arabs from attacking Jews when he shot and killed 29 Muslim worshipers last year at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the nearby Palestinian town of Hebron.
``This is a special day,″ said Benjamin Kahane, leader of the anti-Arab group Kahane Chai, as he and several followers gathered in a circle for Bible study next to Goldstein’s grave.
A graveside memorial service was scheduled and organizers said they expected hundreds to attend, including prominent rabbis. The massacre was Feb. 25, but the anniversary fell today according to the Jewish calendar.
The army declared Hebron and the adjacent Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba closed military areas in an attempt to reduce attendance at the memorial service and prevent violence.
Troops manning roadblocks checked the identity cards of Israeli and Palestinian drivers and turned away all visitors.
The Brooklyn-born Goldstein lived in Kiryat Arba, a settlement of 6,000 Jews. He worked as a doctor and was active in the Kach movement which espouses the expulsion of Arabs from all areas controlled by Israel. Goldstein was bludgeoned to death by Muslim worshipers when he ran out of ammunition.
In Kiryat Arba, posters commemorating his death and calling him a ``holy man″ were plastered on electricity poles and bulletin boards.
A restaurant did brisk business selling colored posters of Goldstein in front of the Tomb, a shrine that is holy to Muslims and Jews as the burial site of the prophets Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Isaac.
The restaurant owner, who would only give his name as Elitzur, said he had sold 1,400 posters and was waiting for a new delivery.
Goldstein’s widow, Miriam, refused to speak to reporters.
``Don’t you have any respect for people in mourning,″ yelled a neighbor when a reporter knocked at the door of the Goldstein’s groundfloor apartment today.
Another neighbor, Merav Segal, said those seeking peace with the Arabs were deluding themselves.
Goldstein’s death ``is difficult for us. We have been orphaned by the loss,″ Mrs. Segal, 39, said as she hung laundry in her front yard.
Goldstein’s grave has become a pilgrimage site for Jewish militants. Supporters have covered it with a marble slab and erected two marble-encased cupboards for prayer books and memorial candles. It is located in ``Meir Kahane Park,″ named after the late New York-born rabbi and founder of Kach.
Throughout the day, people walked to the grave and read psalms. One man kissed the marble slab and placed a pebble on it in accordance with Jewish custom.
Among those paying their respects were many followers of the militant Kach and Kahane Chai movements.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government outlawed both groups after the massacre and jailed leading activists for several months.
All have since been released. The groups’ leaders boast they operate freely and have even increased membership.
Benjamin Kahane, son of the late rabbi, threatened more violence today against Palestinians. ``There was already one explosion,″ he said, referring to the massacre, ``and there will be another one.″
Kahane, 28, said the government did nothing to protect Jews against Palestinian attacks. ``The government doesn’t respond, so someone has to.″