The Doctor Of Death — Baruch Goldstein & The Cave Of The Patriarchs Massacre

Adam Fitzgerald
10 min readMar 31, 2020

Benjamin (Baruch) Goldstein was born in 1956 Brooklyn, New York City. His father, Israel Goldstein a devout religious man as well as the mother, Miriam Goldstein whose family have generational lineage which went back eight generations to the Baal Hatanya, which was an acronym for Harav Shneur Zalman the founder of the Lubavitch chassidus from the 18th century. During the 1929 Hebron Riots, which took place in Hebron, Mandatory Palestine, when some 69 Jews were slaughtered, without the British troops interceding, some of those were relatives of Miriam Goldstein. Also the same year in Safred, where 18 Jews were killed as Arabs rioted thru-ought Galilee. The conflicts witnessed a total of 133 Jews and 110 Arabs that were killed. It also ended the Jewish presence in Hebron as well. Both of the Goldstein's worked in the New York City Board of Education school district.

Benjamin meanwhile entered the Yeshiva in Flatbush, located 919 East 10th Street. It was the best Jewish school in Brooklyn. There Baruch excelled in his studies and became enamored with learning Talmudic law. After graduating Baruch wished to become a doctor, and treat fellow Israeli’s back in his natural home of Israel. He enrolled at yeshiva University, but then transferred to the Albert Einstein of Medicine where he earned his medical degree in 1981. At around this period he became affiliated with a known radical Jewish organization, The Jewish Defense League in Brooklyn, led by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Goldstein knew Kahane well from radio broadcasts proclaiming his prejudices towards Arab’s and believing Israel should be a Jewish home state specifically designed for Jews only.

Goldstein did whatever he could to help the organization out, but he yearned to make “aliyah” (he immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel). Before his departure however, he would pen a letter to the editor of the New York Times, it would give the world a glimpse of his extremist views towards Arabs and his devout admiration for the defense of Israeli borders:

“The harsh reality is: if Israel is to avert facing the kinds of problems found in Northern Ireland today, it must act decisively to remove the Arab minority from within its borders.”

By 1983, he immigrated to Israel. There he would live in a home near Hebron in a town called Kiryat Arba, “The town of four”. He would also change his name from Benjamin to Baruch. His parents, as well as his brother and sister would soon follow him in their immigration to the homeland. Kiryat Arab had a special place for Baruch Goldstein, it is prominently mentioned in the bible as where King Solomon would bury his wife Sarah. There were also ominous history here just three years prior, In 1980, three 20-year-old yeshiva students studying in Kiryat Arba were among the six Jews were killed after praying in the Cave of the Patriarchs held on a Friday night.

According to an article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, witnesses at the scene were unaware of an attack until it was too late;

“Alharon Wertheimer was guarding the Hadassah building when the attack started. “The people were coming back from the Machpela Synagogue via the Hadassah building,” he said. “They were singing Shabat songs. There were many women and children. But by sheer luck, they were walking ahead of the last group which included 24 men and six girls. As soon as the women and children entered the building and the last group was approaching the gate,” the attack broke out, Wertheimer said.

“Hell was everywhere,” he continued. “Hellish fire was coming from opposite me. I had no time to return the fire. I was hit, stumbled and dragged myself into the house where I was given first aid.” He said the firing was so heavy and dense that he would not have been able to do much. “Everyone outside was hit by the shower of lead and fire,” he explained. “It was hell.”

The shooters were 4 Palestinians, one of them, Tayseer Abu Shneineh, was elected to head Hebron’s municipal council. The four charged with the murders were all sentenced to life in prison, but were released in prisoner exchanges later in the decade.

During the mid 1980’s, Baruch Goldstein would service in the Israeli Army as it’s head medical officer. He would also meet a Soviet immigrant, named Miriam, Baruch’s mother was pleased. The wedding was preceded over by none other than Rabbi Meir Kahane. There would be conflicting testimony over the years in regards to Baruch treating Arab-Israeli soldiers from the IDF. According to some reports, Baruch declined, even after being offered payment to treat Arab-Israeli soldiers claiming it would be violating “his deeply held Jewish theological beliefs”. Most Arab-Israeli soldiers were Druze. Druze people reside primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, and are known to be quite “adaptable” to any community they live in.

November 5, 1990….In a downtown Marriott located on the East side of Manhattan, a gunman wearing a “kippah”(Jewish religious hat) walked up to a table where Meir Kahane was sitting and shot at him within an arm’s length. Kahane was killed, his assailant was later captured after a short shoot out. The assassin was a known local Islamic militant, El Sayyid Nosair. He would later be remarkably found not guilty for Kahane’s murder. The assassination however was felt thru-ought the Jewish world, more so in Israel where the nationalist fervor was made known during this period as multiple attacks as Palestinians came soon hereafter. Baruch Goldstein crushed by his friend's death, vowed to avenge it, tenfold.

Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them. (Book of Esther 9:5)

The Cave of the Patriarchs is considered the second holiest site in all of the Jewish world, after the Temple Mount. It is located south of the West Bank in Hebron. Known to Muslims as the “Sanctuary if Abraham”, it is a known tourist site as well.

Cave of the Patriarchs, South view

Purim is a Jewish holiday which commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who was planning to kill all the Jews. On February 25th, 1994, the day of Purim as well as the Muslim Ramadan, Baruch Goldstein work up in the early morning, kissed his wife Miriam and left his home. Goldstein picked this day to commit to an act that he felt was not only just his religious duty, but a duty to avenge the death of Kahane. At 5:03pm, approximately 800 Muslim worshipers entered the compound to fast and pray.

The cave as guarded by Israeli IDF soldiers, usually there are nine guards detailed to the area, but four soldiers were late to their posts, and only one was on guard this evening. Dressed in his Israeli Army uniform and carrying an automatic rifle, IMI Galil, with 4 magazines, a total of 140 rounds in 35 rounds per magazine. He also had hand held grenades on his person.

As he entered the Hall of Isaac, a secondary corridor after the Hall of Abraham, he witnessed two guards, they thought of him as simply an Israeli soldier who was participating in the prayer inculcation . Standing in front of the only exit from the hall and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshipers, Goldstein grabbed a grenade from his pouch, and threw it to his left. The preceding blast shook the corridor, and the Israel guards fell to the floor. As soon as the blast had ended no less, Goldstein preceded to spray the prayer area with his automatic IMI Galil. Most of the Muslim worshipers were on their knees in supplication and had little time to react to the volley of sheer violence met from behind. There were some worshipers who even said they saw two and maybe three participating in the shooting, as the shots had come not just from behind, but also from the sides of the corridor.

According to a survivor of the massacre, Hamadi al-Mohtesab, it felt like an unending nightmare.

“I turned and saw a settler behind me shooting, and then I was hit from the other side. I don’t know who shot me, but it wasn’t him. I was shot three times in the other side of my body. I couldn’t see at all after that, but I could still hear and heard people saying that soldiers had closed the main door so we couldn’t get out. When we were in the ambulance we were stopped at a checkpoint in Beit Ummar. The soldiers kept us for a long time at the checkpoint and my friend who was also injured died in the ambulance… It never leaves you, people tell me that I don’t laugh anymore.”

Fatima Hamis al-Jabari, husband to Sulemain, killed in the violence.

“My husband and I, and two of our sons were at the mosque. Men and women are separated to pray so when I heard the shooting I just thought about my husband and sons. As the shooting began my husband tried to cover our youngest son, Sari, who was eight. Suleiman was shot through the back and the bullet went straight through him and into Sari. My husband was killed, Sari’s stomach spilled out and we thought he would die too but he survived after one month in hospital.”

There were over 120 round shot by Goldstein, until his weapon jammed during reloading. During their brief moment someone from the crowd managed to hurl an adjacent fire extinguisher positioned to the west wall of the hall. The furious throw managed to hit Goldstein directly on his forehead as he looked up, knocking him down to the ground momentarily, but it was enough for the sparse crowd to manage a final act of vengeance of their own.As Goldstein curled up, numerous men, some even shot by Goldstein just moments ago, beat him what seemed like an eternity. Goldstein was killed by the mob’s assault, his body was left crumpled with multiple broken bones.

Kamal Abdeen managed to survive the initial assault claimed that Israeli soldiers afterwards were seen laughing afterwards.

“The soldiers always searched us before we entered the mosque and we had to pass through a metal detector. On that day the machine was turned off and no-one searched us. There were fewer soldiers there than usual and they were relaxed and laughing, they didn’t think anybody was going to get out alive.”

After the smoke had cleared, Goldstein’s massacre killed 29 people while wounding another 125, among them 14 children. According to the New York Times whom managed to interview 40 worshipers who survived the attack:

“All witnesses corroborated that three Israeli guards opened fire, likely in panic amid the confusion, as the Muslims fled the shrine, with at least one soldier firing into the crowd. During the inquiry, an Israeli Army official said three worshippers died in the stampede following the attack and five Palestinians were killed in street riots within Hebron later that day.”

The immediate days after the massacre saw conflicts thru-ought Hebron. Palestinians began raiding Israeli settler homes and commit acts of arson on farmlands once belonging to Palestinian families who were unduly evicted by the Israeli Army. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas military wing, began a multiple suicide bombing campaign that saw a total of 8 Israeli civilians were killed and 55 wounded in the town of Afula, a north distinct in Israel. The vengeful attacks were not only felt in Israel but also in NYC. On March 1, a Lebanese immigrant Rashid Baz shot at a van full of Lubavitch students on the Brooklyn Bridge, his reasons for the assault was in regards to the Patriarchs incident. One student was killed, while 3 were injured.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called the attack “a loathsome criminal act of murder,” and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat warned of “a very negative backfire on the whole peace process.” The tension between Israeli Jews and Palestinians would become heightened over the months and years. Meanwhile many Israeli settlers and members of the “ultra-orthodox” movement, Kach Party, defended the actions of Baruch Goldstein.

“Dr Dov Lior, the rabbi of Kiryat Arba warmly urged young Ya’acov Goldstein, son of Baruch, to “follow in your father’s footsteps. He was a righteous man, and a great hero”

Baruch Marzel, a Kach leader who lives in Hebron, added

“We would have been a lot happier with the whole thing if Dr. Goldstein, a righteous man, was not killed. With him dead, we cannot be happy.”

Goldstein’s body was buried in a hillside in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, overlooking the large West Bank Palestinian city of al-Khalil. It is annually visited by members of the Israeli Hillel Youth, or known as Hilltop Youth, a small clan of radical Jewish religious settlers. The Israeli IDF has suspended it to dissuade it in becoming a shrine for a murderer.

Baruch Goldstein’s grave

At the home of Goldstein’s parents in Kiryat Arba, his mother Miriam Goldstein still possesses her late son’s Israeli IDF diploma when he once served as chief medical officer. On it is emblazoned in bold lettering:

With your dedication you saved the lives of the wounded and you saved the entire world.

Yet the actions of that day have still left many survivors of the massacre asking if Goldstein’s murderous deeds were meant to simply “save” only the Jews by killing Arabs in the process.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.