KIRYAT ARBA - Dozens of far right activists arrived for the annual Purim celebration at the Kiryat Arba gravesite of Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in 1994.
Earlier Thursday, the IDF declared the site a closed military zone, forcing the activists to stage their celebration nearby.
Participants proceeded to read the Book of Esther, which they accompanied with "Arik is a traitor" calls, in reference to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
As tensions rose police arrested three right wing activists in close proximity to the gravesite. Two are suspected of handing out stickers with the date of the assassination of late Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin printed on them alongside a picture of the assassin Yigal Amir.
One of those detained had been released just a day before for his involvement in blocking roads and burning tires in protest of Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan. The third right wing activist was detained for assaulting a policeman.
Organizers of the event said police needed a quota and so arrested activists at random
Some activists chose to make particularly harsh statements, comparing Sharon to late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and saying Sharon was "walking in Rabin's footsteps. The tree is ready."
Ahead of the event, army and police forces deployed in the area to prevent revellers from approaching the gravesite itself.
Many activists turned up at the site dressed up, including one wearing an ambulance service shirt displaying the message “Baruch saves Jews. Others carried toy rifles and wore IDF uniforms with the words “commander, I can’t,” in reference to calls on IDF soldiers to refuse settlement evacuation orders.
Others also chose to evoke Holocaust imagery by wearing the controversial orange star, a move that drew harsh criticism in the past.
Event organizers expected about 100-150 people to attend the celebration, but the turnout appears to be weaker than expected.
'Goldstein festivity takes on added meaning'
In 1994, Goldstein indiscriminately killed 29 Muslims at a Hebron mosque on Purim, prompting radical right-wingers to introduce a new tradition by celebrating the Purim festival at his gravesite every year.
Far right activists said this week that Goldstein is a symbol for many Jews in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.
"The Baruch Goldstein festivity takes on an added meaning in wake of the intention to expel Jews from their land and for many in Kiryat Arba, including far-right activists and hilltop youth, it symbolizes the Jew who doesn't accept the current reality and doesn't follow in the footsteps of others," one activist said.
During the past week, dozens of lectures by far-right activists have been given within the Green Line and in the territories in order to preach the "Goldstein Law." The lectures are being delivered before young children and youth, and according to sources from the far right Goldstein is depicted as a hero and a role model, "a person whose actions are designed to teach and convey an important message."
Therefore, Ben Gvir said, he is debating whether to dress up as Shai Nitzan in handcuffs or a soldier who refuses orders.
In response to the far right's intention to celebrate at the Goldstein gravesite in Kiryat Arba, Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said it was a disgrace.
"The annual reveling around the gravesite is a mark of disgrace on all of Israeli society," he said.