It was 13 years ago on this, the fifteenth day of Ramadan, that Dr.
Baruch Goldstein walked into Al Haram Al Ibrahimi Mosque in the
southern West Bank's Hebron and opened fire. He killed 29 Palestinians
in the midst of prayer. Among them were three children. The Israeli
response to the massacre was to punish the victims by taking over half
the mosque and turning it into a synagogue – exactly what Goldstein had
been hoping for.
The massacre was perpetrated on the fifteenth day of Ramadan, which 13 years ago was 25 February 1994. Every year Ramadan comes earlier and Hebron residents are memorializing the difficult event today. Since that day the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian city has only increased in severity.
The Israeli military had imposed a 40 day curfew and divided the mosque to serve Israeli settlers as a Jewish synagogue. The Israeli military would not allow Muslims into their own mosque except for four times per year. It was on one of those days, during the dawn prayer service, that Goldstein entered and opened fire. The mosque was packed full.
After the massacre, half the mosque was taken over by Israeli authorities and turned into a synagogue . Many of those who worship at the synagogue are followers of Goldstein, believing that Palestinians should be 'ethnically cleansed'. There are daily beatings, and often shootings , of Palestinians in Hebron by these extremist settlers.
Palestinians must go through metal detectors to enter the Mosque, even being forced to take off their belts for the Israeli soldiers. Israeli settlers enter on the other side and are allowed to bring in weapons if they wish, as was the case this week in northern Hebron's Halhoul Village Mosque.
The closure of Shuhada Street, running north – south in the city, is a remnant of the massacre, as is the seizing of the Old City vegetable market. Central Hebron and its environs are overrun with some of the most historically and currently violent of all settlers.
Today, Saturday, this fifteenth day of Ramadan, the families who lost 29 people, are memorializing the deaths, carrying photos and walking to the cemetery.
Chief Palestinian Justice, Sheikh Taysir Al Tamimi, is the Imam of Al Ibrahimi Mosque and is speaking out against the "horrible crime committed by Dr. Goldstein" and the continual occupation. Closures, land confiscation, settler and soldier violence, all continue to plague Hebron. Access during Ramadan is still difficult, as is passage for school children on their way to classes, who also are forced through electronic gates despite months of nonviolent protest.