A bearded rabbi in his mid-40s, Marzel lives in the illegal Jewish settler outpost of Tel Rumeida in Hebron’s old town in an apartment that looks more like a military garrison than a normal home.
The place is surrounded by a fence, backed up by barbed wire, and further reinforced by powerful searchlights.
And above all, there are a dozen Israeli soldiers standing guard inside their watchtowers, equipped with binoculars, with their automatic rifles turned towards Palestinian neighbourhoods.
Like all religious Zionists, Marzel is schooled in the ideology of messianic Zionism which teaches that the Jewish Messiah or Redeemer will not appear until Palestine is “cleansed” of non-Jews.
As a result, Marzel and his friends, such as Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the Hebron massacre in 1994, is trying to expedite the coming of the Redeemer.
His means to do that is violence and terror against Palestinian civilians, including his own neighbours, the Abu Haikal family – a continuous target of his harassment.
A few years ago, he shot and killed a 15-year-Palestinian boy, Ibrahim Idris, who was visiting from Amman. Marzel claimed the boy threw a stone at him and he had to defend himself.
Israeli soldiers routinely demolish
A year-and-a-half ago, Marzel was arrested (and released) for conspiring to plant a bomb at an Arab school.
Marzel believes there is no room for Arabs and non-Jews in general, not only in Hebron, but in Palestine as a whole.
His stance on the peace process is predictable.
“God gave us this land and we have no right to give any of it away,” he says.
Marzel’s ideas are by no means marginal in Israeli society. They are espoused by hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters, who are affiliated in one way or the other with the messianic Zionist movement, known as Gush Emunim.
Gush Emunim vehemently opposes any peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians involving Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967.
Their vitriolic opposition is based on a religious conviction that the creation of Israel in Palestine in 1948 heralded the beginning of the messianic age and process of redemption for the Jewish people.
Therefore, Israel was referred to in religious Zionists’ prayers as “the first flowering of our redemption” .
For many years, Gush Emunim leaders and rabbis were deliberately vague or ambivalent about the Palestinians.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, for example, they calculated that through a combination of unrelenting coercion and continued settlement expansion, the Arabs, or most of them, would leave “voluntarily” after realising that they had no future in “Eretz Yisrael” (the Land of Israel).
Gush Emunim sought to realise this prophecy by waging a murderous terrorist campaign against Palestinians, their institutions and even their religious places.
For example, in the late 1970s, Jewish extremists planned to attack the Dome of the Rock, using rockets stolen from the Israeli army.
When the extremists were eventually caught, they told their interrogators that all they wanted to do was to expedite the coming of the Messiah by triggering violence and bloodshed on a very large scale which they thought would induce and accelerate the appearance of the redeemer.
Most Israeli settlers follow the
In 1982, Gush Emunim terrorists attacked the campus of the University of Hebron, killing two students and injuring many. The killers were eventually pardoned by a Presidential decree.
The bloodiest attack by Gush Emunim on the Palestinians was carried out by Goldstein in 1994 during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when Muslims were praying at dawn at the Ibrahimi Mosque in downtown Hebron.
While Israeli officials publicly condemned the carnage, Gush Emunim leaders, including Marzel, Noam Federman, and others, openly praised the criminal act, hailing Goldstein a “saint who carried out the Lord’s will”.
In fact, the settlers went as far as erecting a shrine in honour of the attacker in Kiryat Araba, which became a pilgrimage attraction for extremist Jews from around the world.
However, as these and other crimes failed to make the Palestinians leave, Gush Emunim leaders began to openly advocate the idea of “transfer” or expulsion of the Palestinians from the territories.
Some Gush Emunim leaders equivocate and prevaricate when confronted with the issue of transfer, especially when talking to a non-Jewish audience or the media.
For example, Israeli National Religious Party leader Eifi Eitam wrote recently that Palestinians “who choose to stay in the land of Israel will have to recognise the supremacy of the Jews in this land”.
The same idea was voiced by Rabbi Yesheyahu Magnes, from Mirkaz Ha’arv, Gush Emunim’s theological headquarters.
“If the Arabs want to stay, they will have to come to terms with the fact that they live in a Jewish state.”
When asked if he would support giving the Palestinians and non-Jews in general “equal political and civil rights”, Magnes evaded the question.
“God gave us this land and we have no right to give any of it away”
Rabbi Baruch Marzel
“There is no country in the world where a minority enjoys absolute equal political and civil rights,” he said.
However, when reminded that an American Jew, Sen Joseph Leiberman, was nearly elected as Vice-President of the US a few years ago, the rabbi retorted that “it was because he was Jewish that he lost.”
Magnes would not spell out the implications entailed in non-Jews accepting to live under Jewish rule.
However, according to Halacha, or Jewish rule, a gentile permitted to reside in the Land of Israel “must accept to pay a tax and suffer the humiliation of servitude” and that such a gentile “be held down and not raise his head against Jews.”
In the final analysis, however, Gush Emunim rejects as a matter of principle the presence of the Palestinians west of the River Jordan, on no other account than their being “goyem” or non-Jews.