Jews Have Long Suffered in Hebron : Terrorism: The crime of one gunman can’t be equated with centuries of Arab violence.

<i> Rabbi David Eliezrie is director of the National Conference on Jewish and Contemporary Law in Yorba Linda. </i>

For centuries, blood has flowed in Hebron--in almost all cases, Jewish blood spilled by Arab violence. In 1929, as in 1517, 1841 and 1851, the Jews of Hebron were slaughtered. Because of Arab pogroms, in 1936, the British forcibly removed most Jews from Hebron, after more than 3,500 years of continued residence. Jews were not permitted to return until after the Six-Day War of 1967. Since then, there have been numerous attacks, the most notorious in 1980, when Arab terrorists waylaid a group of Jews walking back from evening prayers at the Tomb of Abraham and murdered six of them.

Since the signing of the PLO-Israeli agreement last September, the situation has deteriorated, with almost daily Arab terrorist attacks resulting in at least 30 Jewish deaths in the West Bank.

The act of Baruch Goldstein last Friday--entering a mosque and killing at least 40 people there--is reprehensible. It defies both Jewish law and tradition: While Judaism supports acts of defense, indiscriminate violence is condemned.

Yet the world’s uproar over this great crime is one-sided. Arab terrorism is organized; Goldstein acted alone. He was a quiet man, and his closest friends, even his wife, had no idea of what he intended to do.


Goldstein went to Hebron years ago to serve as a physician. Daily, he saw firsthand the carnage as those wounded in Arab attacks were brought to his care. Since the gunning down of his closest friend and his friend’s son in December, Goldstein became deeply distressed. Last Thursday night, during a Purim service at the Tomb of Abraham, he heard, along with many others, the cries of Arabs in the mosque next door: “ Etbak el Yahud --kill the Jews.” Many of Goldstein’s friends feel that this pushed him over the edge. The next morning, he rose at dawn and went to the mosque and killed those he thought were going to kill him.

It is hypocritical for the world to condemn the irrational act of one man and ignore the organized efforts of Arab terrorist groups. In the last 10 days alone, they murdered a pregnant mother and an army reservist and made dozens of other unsuccessful attacks. Hamas, the Fatah hawks of the Palestine Liberation Organization and other groups have been orchestrating a systematic policy of terror against Jewish civilians in the West Bank. These efforts are the cause of the tensions, not the actions of one person, terrible as it was.

Time and again, we witness the murder of one Jew after another and there is nothing but silence from the PLO and the world. Now, after this terrible carnage, the PLO demands that the settlers be disarmed. Who then will protect the Jews from the daily attacks--Yasser Arafat, the man with the blood of hundreds if not thousands of Jews on his hands?

Jews are not interlopers or settlers in Hebron. They have a historic right to live there. The first Jew, Abraham, buried his wife Sarah in Hebron. Despite pogroms, expulsions, attacks and murders, Jews have continued to live in the city of their forefathers. Goldstein’s grandparents were from Hebron, forced out by Arab violence decades ago. He, like many other Jews, just wanted to live in the home of his ancestors.

Living in Hebron has not been easy for Jews. A very close friend of mine, Sara Nachshon, a mother of 10, was one of the first Jews to renew the ancient settlement after the Six-Day War. She has been attacked numerous times. One day, the bus she was riding in was machine-gunned; the bullets missed her by inches. Another time, as she was going to pray at the Jewish cemetery, an Arab tried to kill her with a knife. Her oldest son, Yehuda, was stabbed in the back as he walked through the market; the thick seam on his denim jacket saved his life. Every Jew in Hebron has been the target of such violence.

The Arafat-Rabin agreement has accelerated the violence. The Arabs of Hebron and the West Bank are hoping to accomplish what they did in 1935: drive the Jews out. The world, naive, without a sense of yesterday, only sees the terrible carnage of today. It does not see the fresh grave of a mother gunned down with a baby in her womb a week ago or the dozens of others who have met similar fates.

The present Israeli government carries much of the responsibility. It has failed to protect its citizens from Arab terrorism. This breakdown in basic security calls into question the very agreement that the government is supporting. If the army cannot protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists now, what will happen when Palestinians themselves are the police? Things will only get worse, not better, with Arafat in Jericho instead of Tunis.

As Jews, we must condemn an act of violence against another human being, even if that person is filled with hatred toward us. Baruch Goldstein was wrong to spill blood in the mosque in Hebron. But we cannot let the world compare the acts of one person to the continuous attacks of Arab groups that are dedicated to pushing Jews out of our homeland.